Search results for: "charter school"

West Virginia recently passed a charter school law, breaking its promise to the state’s teachers. A new board was created to authorize charters. That board just approved two for-profit online charter schools. One is run by K12 Inc., which changed its name to Stride. The other will be run by Ron Packard’s Accel, which operates low-performing charters in Ohio. Packard was the first CEO of K12 Inc., where he was paid $5 million a year.

Online charters are known for low academic performance, low graduation rates, and high attrition. A study by CREDO found that students in online charter schools learn almost nothing.

While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year. This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.

An organization of business leaders in St. Louis issued a demand for more “high quality schools” (by which they mean privately managed charter schools). But it’s not clear that charters are synonymous with “high quality schools.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the University of Missouri-St. Louis, which manages seven charter schools in the city, is likely to close one of them. The Arch Community Charter School opened in 2017 and has an enrollment of 95 students.

In fact, charter schools and competition has weakened the city’s struggling public schools.

Here is some useful information from the story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The potential closure comes as city leaders focus on the fluctuating public school landscape, including a sharp population decline among school-aged children, which dropped to 45,000 from 60,000 over the last decade.

On Thursday, the Education and Youth Matters Committee of the Board of Aldermen will discuss a resolution to support a moratorium on opening new schools and the development of a citywide plan for public education. The resolution would amount to a symbolic ban on charter schools, which are governed by state law.

But after looking at the Arch’s academic records, the school does not have the numbers and planning to meet students’ needs, Marino said.

In 2019, the most recent state data available, 3% of students at the Arch tested proficient or advanced in English and none in math.

UMSL’s decision about Arch follows the closure several months ago of Clay Elementary School, one-half mile away in the Hyde Park neighborhood. That was part of a St. Louis Public Schools downsizing. Enrollment below 200 students was among the criteria considered for closure, and Clay had dropped to 128 students last year.

The aldermanic resolution says: “The local, state, and federal support for school choice programs continues to create a system of schools and programs that fight over a declining population of children and a shrinking pool of resources, leading to duplicated services and system-wide inefficiencies.”

Charter schools enroll close to 12,000 students in the city, while St. Louis Public Schools enrollment dropped below 20,000 last year. The district has lost more than 50% of its enrollment since the first charters opened in 2000.

Open the article to see the graph, which demonstrates the folly of expanding the charter sector, which drains resources and students from a weakened public sector.

The average annual performance score for local charter schools, which includes factors such as attendance, academic achievement, and high school or college preparedness, was 80% in 2018, the most recent figures available. St. Louis Public Schools scored 79%, according to state data.

Of the 30-plus charter schools that have opened in St. Louis since 2000, about half have been shut down for academic or financial failure. Carondelet Leadership Academy was the latest to shutter in June 2020, displacing 400 students and 50 staff members.

One new charter school will open in 2022, sponsored by—wait for it—the Opportunity Trust.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen endorsed the moratorium on new schools and agreed on the need for a master plan for schools. However, the state legislature decides what happens in St. Louis to St. Louis schools. The Republican legislature does not believe in local control..

The board voted 24-1 for a nonbinding resolution that notes that charter schools and the city public school system have been fighting “over a declining population of children and a shrinking pool of resources.”

Supporters included Alderman Marlene Davis, a former city school board president, who said charter schools were forced upon the city by the Missouri Legislature.

Any new restrictions on the opening of additional charter facilities also would have to be imposed by state lawmakers.

“It’s a sin,” said Davis, of the 19th Ward. “We have gone through trauma after trauma” when some charter schools have suddenly closed.

She also complained about the performance of many of them, while acknowledging that there have been a few with adequate or superior records.

“Nobody can tell me that there’s appropriate oversight of these schools,” Davis said.

The resolution also won support from a critic of the city public schools, Alderman Carol Howard, 14th Ward.

“We need a master plan” for all types of schools, said Howard, a retired school principal in the city school system. “We need to all agree — Black, white, whatever — that our children are important.”

The following post by Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy details the outsized role that Ron Packard’s for-profit charter chain will have in starting charter schools in West Virginia. Packard was one of the founders of the low-performing but highly profitable K12 Inc. virtual charter chain (where he was paid $5 million a year). He left to start another charter chain, called Pansophic, of which Accel is a part. His background is not in education, although his online bio describes him(self) as an “educator and entrepreneur.” In fact, his work experience prior to K12 Inc. was at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. Learn more about Ron Packard at Sourcewatch, which keeps tabs on rightwingers and privatizers (www.sourcewatch.org). The selection of charter chains which have demonstrated poor academic performance in other states shows that the decisions in West Virginia are driven by politics, not concern for students or their education.

Bill Phillis posted this notice:

Ron Packard’s Accel For-Profit Charter School Operation May Run Half of West Virginia’s First Charter Schools
The Ohio D-ranked Accel charter school operator is in line to run half of West Virginia’s first charter schools. Ron Packard, former CEO of the publicly traded K12 company, left K12 Inc. to start Pansophic Learning, of which Accel is a part. Accel has a huge presence in Ohio, with less than a stellar record of performance.

It is of at least passing interest that Packard’s former employer (K12 Inc.) is in line to run the West Virginia charter school Virtual Academy.


One company could run half of WV’s first charter schools. Ohio doesn’t rank it highly.

By Ryan Quinn ryan.quinn@hdmediallc.comNov 4, 2021

CHARLES TOWN — Accel Schools says it serves schools in seven states. West Virginia could be the eighth.
The fast-expanding charter school management company’s name is on half the six applications to open charters here. Lawmakers tout charters as a way to improve Mountain State education.

In neighboring Ohio, 17 of 30 Accel schools were graded D’s and five others were graded F’s in 2018-19 by the state Department of Education. Accel says it serves more than 50 schools.

Ron Packard, founder of K12 Inc., an online charter school business traded on the New York Stock Exchange, left that company in 2014 and started Pansophic Learning. Accel is part of that private, international firm. 

Since 2014, Accel has virtually expanded to the Pacific, with online charters in California and Washington state. It has become the largest school management company in Ohio, home to most of the brick-and-mortar charters Accel runs.

It has yet to go farther east. West Virginia has put out an invitation.

In this year’s regular legislative session, Republicans fast-tracked a law allowing charters to expand faster, teach almost solely online and apply for approval from a new, unelected West Virginia Professional Charter School Board.

A month after Gov. Jim Justice signed the law, Accel hired two lobbyists, according to the state Ethics Commission. One is Larry Puccio, who represents prominent businesses, including the governor’s Greenbrier resort.

Now Accel is trying to reach the tip of the Eastern Panhandle with a brick-and-mortar, 650-student maximum charter in Jefferson County. On Oct. 18, Accel’s Chad Carr spoke to a mostly receptive audience in Charles Town, the county seat.

A second Accel brick-and-mortar charter, Nitro Preparatory Academy, would be located at the edge of the state’s most populous county and enroll up to 600 students.

Accel’s Virtual Preparatory Academy would enable it to reach all of West Virginia. Or, at least, the parts in the hills and hollows that can get online. The school would provide laptops, and max out at 2,000 students.

The Professional Charter School Board could approve all three Accel schools Wednesday during an online meeting scheduled to start at 8 a.m.

The Nitro, Eastern Panhandle and Virtual Preparatory academies are overseen by separate boards, save for one shared member. The Nitro and Eastern Panhandle applications are almost identical.

The Ohio Department of Education rated Accel a “D” operator in 2018-19, the last school year before the pandemic. Ohio hasn’t graded operators or schools since.

The agency graded a half-dozen Accel schools as C’s, two as B’s and none as A’s. More than two-thirds of Accel’s schools in the Buckeye State received the lowest two letter grades. Rapidly expanding Accel’s recent takeover of some schools might have been a factor in the grades, an official said.

“With regards to the Ohio academic records,” Accel spokeswoman Courtney Harritt wrote in an email, “it is a complex analysis because Accel has a specialty in turning schools around academically and financially. The majority of the schools we manage are going through the academic turnaround process.”

The Ohio letter grades are composed of multiple measures, including students’ overall achievement on state tests and their rate of improvement.

Acceleration

Carr said he was swept up in the company’s expansion when Accel took over the charter chain for which he worked.

“Accel is made up of different, uh, organizations that have tried to do charter schools and not done ’em very well,” Carr told the Charles Town crowd. He said his own school excelled academically, but not financially.

“In Ohio, we run schools on a third of what the traditional public schools run ‘ern on,” Carr said of Accel.

Education service provider companies like Accel can’t turn a profit from per-student state funding if they don’t keep down expenses.

The Nitro and Eastern Panhandle Preparatory academies set a goal of maintaining “a grade of C or higher on the West Virginia School Report Card.”

West Virginia ditched its letter-grade system for schools in 2017. Nitro and Eastern Panhandle Preparatory set academic goals, but those don’t take into account scores on state standardized tests by which public schools are judged.

State law gives charter applicants the chance to correct “identified deficiencies” in applications before the charter board decides.

Answering questions now is “premature,” Harritt wrote in an email “because we haven’t yet received application feedback from the charter board. We are still working through the iterative process.”

The Virtual Preparatory Academy application includes a goal to meet or exceed the statewide average for student proficiency in math, English language arts and science.

“Each year, the school will strive for a 2% improvement from the prior year,” the application says.

The only non-Accel brick-and-mortar charter proposed in this state, West Virginia Academy near Morgantown, isn’t planning to use a management company like Accel to run its daily operations.

But the boards of the other two incipient charters are planning to use service providers. The online West Virginia Connections Academy plans to use Pearson, the international education company that also sells textbooks to public schools.

West Virginia Virtual Academy plans to use Stride Inc., the new name for K12 Inc.

Lawmakers allowed up to 10 charters to open, but only two statewide virtual charters. So Accel’s Virtual Preparatory Academy might not open if the Charter School Board instead approves other schools’ applications.

This means Packard’s old company is competing with his new one, which includes five other executive leaders originally from K12 Inc.

At the Charles Town public forum, Carr explained Accel’s approach, telling the more than 30 people there the strategy includes tests assessing only the past two weeks of learning.

“It’s small, six questions, but it has to cover exactly what you just taught,” said Carr, who wore boots and Dallas Cowboys cuff links with his suit.

“You give it to the students. If they know it and they do well on it, move on. But if they don’t know it, you need to go back and reteach it,” Carr said of teachers. “And that’s when somebody like me steps in and says, ‘Hey, here’s a couple of ways that you need to fix this.’ And it works.”

Joanne Curran, an attendee, was open to the pitch.

“Why wouldn’t everybody want to go?” she asked. “And — I literally can’t understand a downside, so it’s a serious question.”

“I don’t know,” Carr said. “It’s, it’s really hard, it’s really hard to answer.”

Ryan Quinn covers education. He can be reached at 304-348-1254 or ryan.quinn@hdmediallc.com. Ryan QuinnEducation Reporter

https://www.wygazettemail.com/news/education/one-company-could-run-half-of-wys-first-charter-schools-ohio-doesnt-rank-it-highly/article_7010ca95-2a1b-55b8-b16e-81af3c757c42.html

The profiteers are lining their pockets with public funds that should be used in the classrooms.

By WSAZ News StaffPublished: Nov. 10, 2021 at 8:32 AM EST|Updated: 6 hours ago

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The West Virginia Professional Charter School Board approved West Virginia’s first charter schools during a virtual meeting Wednesday morning.

The Board met to consider seven applications from companies looking to open new virtual and in-person education options.

Three in-person schools were approved Wednesday morning: West Virginia Academy, Eastern Panhandle Academy and Nitro Preparatory Academy.

Two of those learning proposals, the Eastern Panhandle Academy and Nitro Preparatory Academy, were submitted by the company ACCEL Schools.

ACCEL wants to open the first in-person charter school in our region.

The Nitro Prep Academy, which would be located in the former Nitro High School building, hopes to attract up to 600 students in kindergarten through eighth grade from Kanawha and Putnam counties, according to its application. That would including pulling students from Nitro Elementary School, which will share a parking lot with the new charter school, and Rock Branch Elementary School, which is one of West Virginia’s three National Blue Ribbon Schools and is located less than a 10-minute drive from the proposed charter school.

Nitro Prep said in its application to the state, “there is a need in this area for a high-quality charter school because neither county is excelling academically.” The application goes on to state it hopes to create an individualized learning environment as “an alternative to traditional public schools that have been ineffective in meeting certain family and student learning needs, or cost-prohibitive private schools.”

In addition to the in-person charter school, ACCEL wants to add a statewide virtual option. The West Virginia Professional Charter School Board is set to consider applications for virtual learning next week.

This is a developing story.

West Virginia’s first charter schools gain approval by board members (wsaz.com)

Follow the link to read the 8 Lies About Private School Vouchers

https://vouchershurtohio.com/8-lies-about-private-school-vouchers/

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OhioEandA

The No Child Left Behind Act Has Put The Nation At RiskVouchers Hurt Ohio
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 |ohioeanda@sbcglobal.nethttp://ohiocoalition.org

Bill Phillis, retired deputy commissioner of education in Ohio, is a staunch advocate for the state system of common schools, which is guaranteed in the state constitution. He founded the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy. The question in Ohio, as in many other states, is why Ohio legislators continue to fund failure.

He writes:

STATE REPORT CARD: CHARTER SCHOOLS NOT EVEN A CLOSE SECOND TO REAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The original promise of charter and voucher advocates: Charters will out-place school districts.

The data show a different outcome.

There is no data available from private schools to make a comparison.


Scott DiMauro, President of the Ohio Education Association, in a November 3 commentary in the Ohio Capital Journal shared a comparison of charter school report card results with real public schools. The results show that charter school kids are the real losers.


Do state officials care? Apparently not.

State Report Cards Should Be A Wakeup Call For Ohio’s Charter, Voucher Hawks

Scott DiMauro

I remember taking home my report cards when I was in school. I was a pretty good student; my grades always reflected my passion for subjects I loved, and more importantly, provided some real-time feedback on areas where improvement was needed — Time management, for example, was a skill I had to learn over time. During my years as a high school social studies teacher, I strived to give that same kind of useful assessment to my students when I was putting report cards together for them.

The state puts report cards together for school buildings and districts, too. In spirit, at least, they have the same mission, quantitatively assessing where our publicly funded institutions across the state are succeeding and where there is room for growth. And not surprisingly, after a year and a half of serious challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest round of state report cards shows there’s some extra room for improvement, with about a 10% drop in Performance Index (PI) scores for Ohio’s traditional public schools from the 2018-2019 school year to the 2020-2021 one. Chronic absenteeism also climbed to 17%, up from 7.5%, during that time.

But, over that same period, charter schools in the state saw a 25% drop in PI scores – a 2.5 times greater loss than traditional public schools. And chronic absenteeism in those institutions soared from 22% up to 45%, meaning nearly half of all charter school students in Ohio missed a big chunk of the last school year.

While the Ohio Education Association applauds the change in state law that removed letter grades from the state report card system, it is clear Ohio’s charter schools are not making the grade. As a teacher, I’d give them a D-minus at best.
This should be seriously alarming to Ohio’s taxpayers, who see their money taken from their local public schools to fund these poorer performing alternatives. The PI drop for KIPP, a charter school in Columbus, was 66% — more than double the decline seen in Columbus City Schools.

The seven biggest PI drops in Ohio charter schools were Breakthrough Schools in the Cleveland area, which are often touted by charter advocates as shining examples of success, with PI scores plummeting 77% to 84%. Charter advocates often complain about comparing all school districts’ performance with charters, but last year, 606 out of 612 public school districts in the state lost scarce resources to charter schools.

Recent test score data on Ohio’s private, mostly religious schools — which receive millions in taxpayer funded vouchers — is not available to make a comparison, since those schools are not subject to any of the same accountability standards as public districts.

Now, if some lawmakers get their way, the situation will get exponentially worse for the 90% of Ohio’s kids who rely on public education. House Bill 290 — known as the “Backpack Bill” — would create so-called “Education Savings Accounts” that are just universal vouchers with even less accountability. Even with these vouchers, most families still couldn’t afford tuition at the private schools in their communities, and for those that do go to the private schools, Ohio taxpayers who foot the bill don’t get much bang for their buck. The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed last year that nearly 90% of all voucher students do worse on state tests than students in traditional public schools in the same zip codes.

The data paint a troubling picture. Vouchers and charters take critical resources and weaken the public schools that serve the vast majority of Ohio’s children while delivering worse educational outcomes for our kids. What’s worse is that now we have a school funding system worth investing in — the Fair School Funding Plan. Failing to fully fund that system while pouring more resources into the worse-performing charter and voucher system is wasting an extraordinary opportunity to once and for all fix the way Ohio funds education for the 90% of students and families who attend Ohio’s public schools.

Ohioans need to tell their lawmakers to oppose House Bill 290 and focus on their constitutional responsibility to fund Ohio’s public schools to ensure a high-quality education for all of Ohio’s kids.

State report cards should be a wakeup call for Ohio’s charter, voucher hawks – Ohio Capital Journal

Follow the link to read the 8 Lies About Private School Vouchers https://vouchershurtohio.com/8-lies-about-private-school-vouchers/Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OhioEandA

A regular commenter on the blog, known as Chiara, reports the composition of West Virginia’s new board for authorizing charter schools. The legislature endorsed new charter schools in a state that has never had them. Several of them will be for-profits. Two will be virtual charters. There are three other entities that can authorize the privately run schools that are publicly funded.

Chiara wrote:

Here’s the oversight of West Virginia’s new charter sector: “Appointees are: former Greater Beckley Christian School head boys basketball coach Brian Helton; John Waltz, the vice president for enrollment management at West Virginia Wesleyan College Upshur County; Dewayne Duncan, a real estate developer in Kanawha County and former Republican candidate for Kanawha County Commission; Karen Bailey-Chapman, owner of public relations firm KB Advocacy in Jefferson County and a board member of the libertarian Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy; and Adam Kissel, a senior fellow at the Cardinal Institute. Kissel, a former deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs at the U.S. Department of Education for 16 months under former president Donald Trump, said he was excited to get to work on the new board.” Not a single person from a public school, nor anyone who supports public schools. Rigorously screened – only true believer ideological ed reformers are hired. These are the governance systems national ed reformers design and lobby for, so this must be how they envision the privatized systems they’re creating. Packed with fellow ed reform echo chambers, no dissent or different views permitted, and deliberate exclusion of anyone who comes out of a public school.

On September 22, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools put out a press release boasting of unprecedented enrollment growth during the pandemic. The report asserted that charter school enrollment increased during the pandemic in at least 39 states, with a 7 percent overall increase. The charter lobby said that this growth “is likely” to be “the largest rate of increase in student enrollment increase in half a decade,” as charter schools added nearly a quarter million students.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, conducted a state-by-state analysis of their claim and discovered that it was a half-truth at best. Maybe a quarter truth. Maybe less.

What she discovered was that most of the enrollment gains occurred at the worst-performing segment of the charter industry: virtual charter schools. Many brick-and-mortar charter schools actually lost enrollment.

Writing on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog at the Washington Post, Burris documented the hollowness of the charter lobby claim.

She began:

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has been broadcasting a 7 percent surge in charter school enrollment during the 2020-2021 pandemic school year. Parents are “voting with their feet,” according to its new report, preferring charters to their local public schools. What the authors of the report avoid telling readers is that much of the increase — and likely most of it — was in virtual charter schools, the worst-performing in the charter sector. This occurred even at the expense of brick-and-mortar charters.

The report says this:

“Although a school-level analysis was not conducted as a part of this paper, in some states (e.g., Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah), charter school enrollment increases were primarily driven by enrollment in virtual charter schools. This explains some but not all of the enrollment increases experienced by the charter school sector nationwide last year.

What exactly does “primarily” mean? How bad is the problem? To find out, the Network for Public Education did a school-by-school analysis of virtual charter growth in the states with the largest proportional enrollment increases.

We began with the three mentioned states. In Oklahoma, the virtual charter-school sector more than doubled enrollment. Ninety-seven percent of the more than 35,000 new students in charters enrolled in virtual schools — most in the for-profit EPIC, which has been repeatedly under investigation for misreporting costs to state officials, improper financial transfers and more.

In Pennsylvania, 99.7 percent of the charter enrollment growth occurred in virtual charter schools. Enrollment in the Commonwealth’s traditional brick-and-mortar charter schools increased by a mere 78 students.

Cyber charters accounted for over 131 percent of the growth in Utah, with enrollment in traditional charters declining.

We expanded our analysis to see if this trend occurred in other states. We began with Michigan, a state whose auditor general had recently released an audit finding that cyber charters could not document participation in at least a single course in more than half of the inspected student records.
The enrollment surge in that state’s cyber charters accounted for 237 percent of the increase. Cyber charters enrollment increased by 5,071 students, while traditional charter enrollment dropped by nearly 3,000.

We then looked at Arizona, a state where families have been bombarded with cyber charter ads and billboards. Over 94 percent of the charter enrollment growth in that state was in the cyber charter sector.

Burris then includes a graph of every state that experienced at least a 10% increase in charter enrollments; there were 13. The graph shows how many students switched to online charters and how many to brick-and-mortar charters. In sum, 95.5% of the enrollment growth was virtual charters. Some brick-and-mortar charters lost enrollments.

Why does this matter? The virtual charter schools have a record of low academic achievement, high attrition, and low graduation rates. In addition, the sector has experienced massive scandals, like the A3 chain in California, whose founders pleaded guilty to phantom enrollments and are repaying the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Like ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) in Ohio, which collected $1 billion over 20 years, gave generously to politicians, then declared bankruptcy rather than comply with a court order to repay $67 million to the state for padded enrollments.

Seeing this increase in schools with abysmal performance is cause for alarm. A study of virtual schools by CREDO in 2015 concluded that students who attend these schools lose ground. While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year. This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.

Students may have”voted with their feet” to enroll in virtual schools during the pandemic, but we have to wait for the evidence to find out if they stayed or returned to public schools. If they decide to stay in virtual schools, we should be alarmed.

Katherine Kozioziemski tells the sad story of her bad experience with a charter school that promised the moon, but turned into a grand financial scam. Her post appears on a new site sponsored by the Network for Public Education called “Public Voices for Public Schools.”

She begins:

I knew something was seriously wrong as soon as I saw the budget of the charter school my kids attended. As a member of the school site council, I was on the budget committee. Now, as I looked at the numbers, I could see for myself how dire the situation was. The school was paying five times fair market value to lease a property from a shell company created by the former CEO of the charter management company. We were on a fast track to bankruptcy.

How did a charter school created by parents and teachers morph into a series of shell corporations and a money-making scheme so complex that the Securities and Exchange Commission would ultimately step in? The story begins nearly two decades ago with budget cuts. Like districts all over California, the Livermore schools had been forced to make deep cuts, including shuttering two beloved magnet schools. The Livermore Valley Charter School, which opened in 2005, emerged from a grassroots desire to provide art, music and science—all of the things our district schools were being forced to eliminate.

To me it sounded like the promise of Disneyland: a private school education at a public school price. While classes in the public schools had 25+ kids in a class, the charter would cap its class sizes at 20. I bought into it–hook, line and sinker.

Within a few years after opening, the K-8 school was in financial freefall. That’s when the CEO proposed an ambitious plan that would not just save the school but create a high school as well as acquire two additional schools in Stockton. By the time my son started at Livermore Valley Charter in 2012, I was already hearing whispers about the company that now ran the school: Tri Valley Learning Corporation. By 2015, when my kids were in kindergarten and third grade, signs that something was seriously awry were impossible to ignore.

Open the link to read the rest of this shocking story.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, debated Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, about whether for-profit charter schools should receive federal funds.

Here is Burris’s opposition to the proposition: https://fredericksburg.com/opinion/forum-2-no-put-students-before-profits/article_d559232f-aeb1-5b7e-84f3-14f4de78c2aa.html. Burris was the main author of the NPE report, Chartered for Profit: The Hidden World of Charter Schools Operated for Financial Gain.

And here is Rees’ support for federal funding of for-profit charter schools. https://fredericksburg.com/opinion/forum-1-should-charter-schools-run-by-for-profits-receive-federal-funds-yes-all-charters/article_b612f3f4-b164-56b4-bb02-5c27a9696888.html. Rees was education advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney during the first Bush administration, worked for the Heritage Foundation, and for Michael Milken’s Knowledge Universe.

Enrollments in the Cleveland Independent School District in Texas was growing rapidly. Voters passed bond issues, but it wasn’t enough. The superindent turned to the state for help. Sadly, Governor Gregg Abbott and his hand-picked State Commissioner Mike Morath are obsessed with charters, despite the fact that their academic results are below those of public schools.

Here is the sad story of Abbott and Morath’s devotion to charter expansion.

TEXAS MONTHLY BREAKS STORY ON FAST-TRACK CHARTER EXPANSION IN EAST TEXAS
Texas Monthly, October 6, 2021

Texas Monthly writer Bekah McNeel breaks the story of how Commissioner Morath fast-tracked the approval of five new International Leadership of Texas (ILT) charter schools in Cleveland ISD within only three business days, skirting TEA’s own rules and process, and despite concerns raised by 12 area Superintendents whose districts will be affected.

The Superintendents co-signed a letter to the Commissioner that questioned ILT’s track record, especially with low-income students who are English Learners, and TEA’s rapid approval of the amendment application without input from the affected school districts.

The article also reinforces the concerns that local communities and school districts have been raising for years: The Commissioner ignores the impact of new charter campuses on local school districts and communities when he approves an unlimited number of new charter campuses without public notice or opportunities for input from the public.

The article is attached.
Link: https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/texas-charter-school-expansion-cleveland/

Key Excerpts:

  • Instead of offering funding and flexibility to the public schools…the state fast-tracked the expansion of charter schools that aren’t held to the same standards of community accountability or required to find a seat for every student regardless of ability or disciplinary status.
  • Public school advocates worry that the process circumvents public accountability. Charter growth is driven by decisions made in Austin and charter network headquarters, not by the communities where those schools will be located or their elected school boards.
  • Kevin Brown, the executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators, said that when decisions are made in a public school district about anything from curriculum to adding new schools, democratically elected boards create a conduit for parents and community members to offer their views. Charters, by contrast, whose appointed boards often do not live in the cities and towns whose students they serve, do not need a community’s approval to open a new school next door. “To a local community, it often feels like an invasion from outsiders,” Brown said.
  • On that same day, Conger and ILTexas chief financial officer James Dworkin broke the good news of their expansion on a call with investment managers. “If somebody’s looking for ‘where’s the local school?’ they’ll be pointed to an ILTexas school,” Dworkin said. “That is a change to the charter industry as I’ve seen it in my time here, and I’m proud to be part of ILTexas leading the way.”
  • In response to concerns that ILT is allowed to expand under state rules even though it currently has 2 F rated campuses and 6 D rated campuses out of a total of 32 campuses, State Board of Education member Pat Hardy from Fort Worth responded, as Texas Monthly wrote: “Hardy accepted that the policy allowed expansion, but pushed back: ‘I really think that any charter school that has an F should not have the privilege to expand.’ Morath advised her, politely, to take up the issue with the Legislature.”
  • For the record:
  • 884 new charter campuses have been approved between 2010 – 2021 in Texas through charter expansion amendments approved solely by the Commissioner of Education.
  • 586 new charter campuses have been approved since 2015.

The authorizer of the Hmong College Prep Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, wants to fire the superintendent of the school after learning of big losses in the school’s funds.

A St. Paul charter school’s authorizer has placed the school on probation and recommended the board fire its superintendent after she lost $4.3 million of the school’s money investing in a hedge fund.

The authorizer, Bethel University, said Hmong College Prep Academy’s failed investment “illustrates areas of great concern related to managing finance, governance and legal compliance.”

Christianna Hang, superintendent and chief financial officer, founded the school in 2004. It’s now the state’s largest single-site charter school, with around 2,400 students in the Como neighborhood, and is building a $43 million middle school with financing facilitated by the city of St. Paul.

Hang was looking for opportunities to pay for that project when she ended up wiring $5 million to a hedge fund in 2019, in violation of the school’s policy and state law. The school is now suing the hedge fund.

Bethel’s Aug. 30 letter also cited “significant concerns” about conflicts of interest regarding the superintendent, her husband and a former school board member.

The first conflict involved Bridge Partner Group, a company owned by Hang and her husband, Paul Yang. The board in January approved a contract with the company, effectively converting Yang from the school’s chief operating officer to an independent contractor on a fully guaranteed, five-year contract worth around $190,000 a year; the board later reversed that move.

The second conflict involves Northeast Bank, which was chosen to finance $7 million of the middle school project while one of its vice presidents, Jason Helgemoe, served as vice chair on the Hmong College Prep board.

Bethel has directed the board to spend 90 days making numerous changes at the school, including dividing superintendent and chief financial officer into two separate positions and hiring a financial consultant who reports directly to the authorizer.

In addition, Bethel is “recommending” the board fire Hang and replace her with someone with no prior ties to Hmong College Prep and for the board to appoint a chairperson who is not employed by the school; the current chair is a teacher.

If you are wondering why there is a Hmong charter school, Minnesota has a long-established practice of authorizing racially and ethnically segregated schools. Defenders of the practice say the children are more comfortable going to school with children of the same background.

I remember when Southerners said the same about segregated schools in the 1950s.

When was the last time your school had millions to invest in the market?