Archives for category: Charter Schools

Jeff Bryant noticed and documented a worrisome new trend: Charter operators are taking advantage of the pandemic to open new charter schools in suburban districts with good public schools.

Public school parents have spoken out, as he shows, because they understand that new charters will drain money from their good public schools and weaken them.

Because reopening public schools in the coming school year will be fraught with unprecedented challenges, experts say, and education budgets may get cut to the bone, news of charter school startups and expansions will undoubtedly spark heated opposition from public school parents and teachers, even in well-to-do suburban communities, like Wake County, that may have been insulated from the financial costs of school choice in the past.

“[These parents and public school advocates] should expect charter schools to drain financial resources from their communities’ public schools,” Preston Green told me in a phone call.

Green, a University of Connecticut professor, is the author of numerous critical studies of charter schools, including one in which he argued that the charter industry’s operations resemble the business practices of Enron, the mammoth energy corporation that collapsed under a weight of debt and scandal.

As evidence, Green sent me an email citing a 2018 study of five non-urban, North Carolina school districts. The study determined that these non-urban districts lost about $4,000 to $6,000 for every student enrolled in a charter school.

Green said that because controversial charter schools have so far been less widespread in the suburbs compared to inner-city communities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit, it’s likely that many suburban parents who previously were unfamiliar with the fiscal impacts of charter schools will increasingly express concerns about seeing new charter schools popping up in their communities.

“This fiscal impact is concerning,” Green explained, “because public schools have fixed costs, such as facilities and administration, that cannot be cut very easily.”

I have posted reports of individual charter schools that received hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions of dollars, from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. These charters claimed to be small businesses, not public schools, which were not eligible to get PPP money. Until two days ago, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to release the names of those who asked for PPP money.

Now the list is out, and it will take a long time to analyze it because 650,000 applicants received federal funding from this program.

Some charters and charter advocates have already been identified on the PPP list. The grants awarded are not exact. They are in a range. I present here the upper limit of the range. I don’t know why the exact amount was not reported. That’s not like the federal government.

KIPP: 19 different KIPP applicants received up to a total of $58 million

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools received an amount in a range up to $1 million.

The California Charter Schools Association received an amount in a range up to $2 million.

The pro-charter, pro-voucher Center for Education Reform received up to $350,000.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers collected up to $1 million

The handsomely funded Thomas B Fordham Foundation collected up to $1 million (when I was on the board in 2009, the TBF Institute had about $40 million in assets and has since received many grants from Gates and other foundations to promote privatization and Common Core).

It may take weeks to produce a full accounting of the coronavirus funds collected by the charter industry, its lobbyists, its advocacy groups, and its schools.

However, we do have a report for one state, Arizona.

Educator and author Curtis Cardine reviewed the PPP grants to private schools in Arizona and produced this list:

Charter Schools
1. Sonoran Schools, $1 to $2 million.
2. Success Schools, $1 to $2 million.
3. Acorn Montessori Charter School $350,000 to $1 million.
4. Arizona Autism Charter Schools, $350,000 to $1 million.
5. Arizona Montessori Charter School at Anthem, $350,000 to $1 million.
6. Ball Charter Schools (Dobson), $350,000 to $1 million.
7. Ball Charter Schools (Hearn), $350,000 to $1 million.
8. Candeo Schools, Inc., $350,000 to $1 million.
9. Career Success Schools, $350,000 to $1 million.
10. Challenge School, Inc., $350,000 to $1 million.
11. Desert Garden Montessori School Inc., $350,000 to $1 million.
12. FitKids Charter School, $350,000 to $1 million.
13. Franklin Phonetic Primary School, $350,000 to $1 million.
14. International Commerce Secondary Schools Inc., $350,000 to $1 million.
15. International School of Arizona Inc., $350,000 to $1 million.
16. Keystone Montessori Charter School, $350,000 to $1 million.
17. LEAD Charter Schools, $350,000 to $1 million.
18. Legacy Traditional School, Peoria, $350,000 to $1 million.
19. Legacy Traditional School, East Mesa, $350,000 to $1 million.
20. Legacy Traditional School, Gilbert, $350,000 to $1 million.
21. Legacy Traditional School, North Chandler, $350,000 to $1 million.
22. Legacy Traditional School, Laveen, $350,000 to $1 million.
23. Legacy Traditional School, Goodyear, $150,000 to $350,000.
24. Liberty Traditional Charter School, $350,000 to $1 million.
25. Liberty Traditional Charter School, Inc, $350,000 to $1 million.
26. Legacy Traditional Schools – Nevada Inc., $2 to $5 million. This is the same company that runs Legacy in Arizona.
27. Mohave Accelerated Elementary School Inc, $350,000 to $1 million.
28. Noah Webster Schools – Pima, $350,000 to $1 million.
29. Noah Webster Schools-Mesa, $350,000 to $1 million.
30. Paradise Valley Christian School, $350,000 to $1 million.
31. Prescott Valley Charter School, $350,000 to $1 million.
32. Verde Valley School, $350,000 to $1 million.
33. Ball Charter Schools (Val Vista), $150,000 to $350,000.
34. Bright Beginnings School, Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.
35. CAFA Charter School, Lp, $150,000 to $350,000.
36. Concordia Charter School Inc, $150,000 to $350,000.
37. Crown Charter School, Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.
38. Desert Star Community School, $150,000 to $350,000.
39. E-Institute Charter High School, $150,000 to $350,000.
40. Eastpointe High School Inc. $150,000 to $350,000.
41. Incito Schools, $150,000 to $350,000.
42. Midtown Primary School, $150,000 to $350,000.
43. Milestones Charter School, $150,000 to $350,000.
44. Montessori Day School, Inc, $150,000 to $350,000.
45. Montessori International School, Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.
46. Mountain School, Inc, $150,000 to $350,000.
47. New Horizon School for The Performing Arts, $150,000 to $350,000.
48. North Star Charter School Inc, $150,000 to $350,000.
49. Park View School, Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.
50. Phoenix Advantage Charter School, $150,000 to $350,000.
51. Sedona Charter School, Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.
52. Synergy Public School, $150,000 to $350,000.
53. The Edge School Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.
54. The Excalibur Charter School, Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.
55. Tucson International School Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.
56. Twenty First Century Charter Schools Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.

Religiously Affiliated
1. Gilbert Christian Schools, $1 to $2 million.
2. Northwest Christian School, $1 to $2 million.
3. Notre Dame Preparatory Roman Catholic High School, $1 to $2 million.
4. Valley Christian Schools, $1 to $2 million.
5. Bourgade Roman Catholic High School Phoenix, $350,000 to $1 million.
6. Desert Christian Schools Inc., $350,000 to $1 million.
7. Joy Christian School, $350,000 to $1 million.
8. Phoenix Christian Unified Schools, Inc., $350,000 to $1 million.
9. Seton Roman Catholic High School Chandler, $350,000 to $1 million.
10. St Augustine Catholic High School, $350,000 to $1 million.
11. St Mary’s Roman Catholic High School, $350,000 to $1 million.
12. The Gregory School, $350,000 to $1 million.
13. Trinity Lutheran Church And School, $350,000 to $1 million.
14. Ascension Lutheran Church And School, $150,000 to $350,000.
15. Valley Lutheran High School Association, $350,000 to $1 million
16. Yuma Catholic High School, $350,000 to $1 million.
17. El Dorado Private School, $150,000 to $350,000.
18. Imago Dei Middle School, $150,000 to $350,000.
19. Lourdes Catholic School, $150,000 to $350,000.
20. Phoenix Christian School Society, Inc., $150,000 to $350,000.
21. Salpointe Catholic High School, $1 to $2 million.

Private Schools
1. The Orme School, $350,000 to $1 million.
2. Arizona School Of Integrative Studies llc, $150,000 to $350,000.
3. A Castlehill Management, Llc. Dba Castlehill Country Day School, $150,000 to $350,000.
4. Kriskat Investments, Llc Dba Primrose School Of Ahwatukee, $150,000 to $350,000. https://start.cortera.com/company/research/k9q8pxn1m/kriskat-investments-llc/
5. Lake Pleasant School 2 Llc, $150,000 to $350,000.
6. Lake Pleasant School Llc, $150,000 to $350,000
7. Lexis Preparatory School Llc, $150,000 to $350,000
8. Bayer Private School, $150,000 to $350,000.
9. Summit School of Ahwatukee, $350,000 to $1 million.

Perhaps you could do the same for your state.

The Paycheck Protection Program was indeed a bonanza for charters and other private schools. Charters had the advantage of collecting public funds as “public schools” and then collecting again as “small businesses.”

Carl J. Petersen, writer and public school parent in Los Angeles, writes here about a Los Angeles charter schools that took millions from the federal Paycheck Protection Plan, then laid off employees anyway.

The purpose of PPP was to help small businesses and to ensure that they did not fire employees because they couldn’t afford to pay them. But charter schools, which had suffered no economic harm, cashed in on the program…because they could.

Petersen writes:

With unemployment rates reaching levels unseen since the Great Depression due to the problems caused by the failed response to COVID-19, every dollar from the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) should be going towards helping small businesses survive. Unfortunately, the charter school industry found a way to double-dip into the government trough to supplement the money they are diverting from public schools with funds from this program.

Despite acknowledging that they could be taking money away from small businesses that needed it to survive the crisis, the governing board of Palisades Charter High School voted last month to accept a $4.606 million dollar loan from the PPP. They admitted at the time that they did not have an immediate need for the money and they failed to articulate a plan to spend the money or to pay it back. They simply felt that it was important to “get the money while the getting’s good.” Discussion of the moral and financial costs of receiving this money was swept aside.

Ignoring the reason for their $4,606,000 windfall, the governing board of Pali voted this month to lay off five members of their staff and reduce the hours for 18 other employees. Even as students throughout the country struggle to transition to distance learning, these cuts included an IT Tech assigned to helping parents, students and teachers navigate the technology needed in this new learning environment. They also eliminated a Tutoring Center Coordinator whom a member of the public and a board member credited with “helping hundreds of kids pass classes and graduate from Pali during e-learning”. A Library Media Technician, Copy Clerk, and Office Assistant will also join the unemployment line in 60 days.

The federal government should “claw back” the wasted $4.6 million.

Tomorrow night, Andre Perry and I will talk about his new book Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Lives in a ZOOM discussion sponsored by the Network for Public Education. We can accommodate only 100 people, so please sign up early. If you don’t get into the first 100, the discussion will be live-streamed on NPE’s Facebook page and archived on its website.

Andre Perry was a charter school leader in New Orleans. He has since rethought the impact of charter schools on children, families, teachers, and communities.

I look forward to meeting him, virtually, and talking about what he learned. I hope you will sign up and join us.

Andre Perry writes, in a piece co-published by the Hechinger Report:

Defunding the police won’t mean much if we keep defunding schools that serve Black children and allowing a school choice movement rooted in anti-Blackness to thrive

A national uprising for racial justice and a pandemic killing disproportionately more Black people have made the call to action clear: We must dismantle the structures that generate racial disparities. Education activists have joined that call by demanding that districts defund police in schools. School boards are listening. The Los Angeles Board of Education last week voted to cut funding to its school police force by 35 percent, amounting to a $25 million reduction.

Calls to defund the police, whether in schools or in our cities, are just one part of what must become a larger movement to end taxpayer funding for institutions that are anti-Black at their core. But as millions of protestors across the country call for monies to be redirected from police to institutions that propel economic and social growth, democracy and unity, school choice advocates are holding fast to their sordid legacy of defunding already under-resourced traditional public schools that serve Black children.

Last week choice advocates won a legal battle that is out of step with the current march toward racial justice and democracy.

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that a program that grants tax credits to “those who donate to organizations that award scholarships for private school tuition” cannot prohibit families from using such scholarships for tuition at private religious schools. The scholarship tax credits were passed by the Montana legislature in 2015, but the program was effectively modified a year later when Montana’s Department of Revenue barred the scholarships from being used at religiously affiliated institutions. In support of its decision, the department cited the Montana Constitution’s Blaine Amendment, which prohibits the state from allocating public dollars to any school “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.” Kendra Espinoza and two other parents took the state to court; the case eventually reached the Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court’s conservative majority found that barring religious organizations from a “public benefit” was unconstitutional. “A state need not subsidize private education,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

There are several states with similar tax credit programs; this ruling could open the door to more religious schools accessing state dollars from voucher-like programs

The Black Lives Matter uprising should turn its sights to these states.

Voucher programs have largely failed at delivering better educational outcomes, and they prevent us from removing the barriers that stand in the way of quality for public schools. By diverting tax revenue and students away from school districts, states remove much-needed dollars that support a vital necessity of neighborhoods and society: public schools in which people of different religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic classes and genders can learn basic national principles of justice, fairness, tolerance and the common good. Vouchers support private institutions which do not have to make room for this kind of inclusion.

Public schools are not the problem. Racism is. Parents don’t need escape hatches; we need states to remove the structures that inhibit public school districts that serve Black and Brown children.

Voucher advocates use the words “choice,” “freedom” and “liberty” to promote their programs, but their use of these words is as fraudulent as that of the slave owners who signed the U.S. Constitution. The original supporters of vouchers were unabashed in proclaiming that the sole reason for these grant programs was to maintain racial segregation. After the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision struck down “separate but equal” educational systems, various state governments used public funds to facilitate the choice of many white people to send their children to private schools.

Shortly after the Brown decision was announced, Virginia Gov. Thomas Stanley was of one of many white leaders to look for a work-around. Thomas established a 32-member Commission on Public Education to study the effects of the Supreme Court decision and make recommendations that would, in essence, nullify the Court’s ruling. The group, known as the Gray Commission after its chair, state Sen. Garland Gray, met its mandate.

The Gray Commission’s 1955 Report to the Governor argued that “compulsory integration should be resisted by all proper means in our power.” It included suggestions such as using public funds to “prevent enforced integration by providing for the payment of tuition grants for the education of those children whose parents object to their attendance at mixed schools.” Across the South, many families chose private segregation academies, many faith-based, moving resources away from local districts. Ever since, choice movements in this country have been tied and rooted to anti-Blackness.

Combined with racist housing policies, the concept of school choice has often been a weapon against Black people’s pursuit of quality and justice in public schooling. The collective choice of the majority of white Americans to opt out of integrated school systems, by sending their kids to private schools or by drawing district maps that continue racial and socio-economic segregation in the suburbs or exurbs, has resulted in $23 billion less funding for schools predominated by people of color than for majority white schools.

Even charter schools, many launched as a way to better serve Black children, have been used as a tool for segregation or have been strategically concentrated in Black districts to defund traditional district schools. Many charters embedded racist disciplinary practices that helped drive the school to prison pipeline.

Just last week, the nation’s largest charter chain, KIPP, jettisoned its iconic slogan, “Work hard, be nice,” which it acknowledged “diminishes the significant effort required to dismantle systemic racism, places value on being compliant and submissive, supports the illusion of meritocracy, and does not align with our vision of students being free to create the future that they want.”

Voucher advocates, on the other hand, have celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision and doubled down on rhetoric around choice that fails to recognize the need for the communal good provided by public education and that is short on any acknowledgement that the promotion of individualism has hurt public schools that Black students attend. Choice advocates will say that Black parents should have the same options as white families, but they do not concede the cost of white choices on Black schools — and democracy itself. While public systems should not eclipse individual rights or needs, institutions like public schools that benefit the common good facilitate individual growth and societal stability. Exclusion, which private schools inherently facilitate, has distorted how people view public institutions. Private doesn’t mean better — for students or society. Filtering out students isn’t a reform we should be adopting.

At the precipice of change, we have an opportunity to do more than create escape hatches. We can actually get at the sources of inequality — anti-Black policies and practices within supposedly democratic systems. We don’t know what kind of choices traditional districts serving a majority of Black students could offer, because states have underfunded them for decades. White Americans who wave the banner of choice are promoting racism and getting in the way of real educational reform. And choice is blocking equity in public schools.

Andre Perry is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.”

This story about vouchers was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for Hechinger’s newsletter.

Peter Goodman is a long-time observer of education politics in New York State and New York City.

In this post, he asks a reasonable question: Why, at a time of fiscal stringency and uncertainty, is the Board of Regents of New York State rubber-stamping the expansion of charter schools?

Charter schools, as he shows, cherry-pick their students to inflate their test scores. Despite state law, their doors are not open to all.

He writes:

If you look at charter school data virtually every charter school enrolls fewer than the “comparable” percentages required in the law. The reason is abundantly clear, students with disabilities and English language learners frequently have lower standardized test scores, impact the charter renewal process and are more costly to educate, i.e., lower class size = more teachers.

The Buffalo charter was out of compliance with state law. Why did the Board of Regents approve a five-year renewal of a charter in Buffalo when the Regent from Buffalo proposed a three-year renewal? Buffalo schools face a large deficit, but its charters are on track to take $108 million out of the city’s public budget.

Why did the Board of Regents approve the renewal of a low-performing charter school in the Bronx?

Goodman writes:

Later in the [Regents’] meeting three New York City charter schools were on the agenda, one of the schools wanted to add high school grades; although there is a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools State Ed staff interpreted the law as allowing grade expansion, in my opinion, an attempt to circumvent the law and should have not been allowed by the state.

The math scores in the school were in the “far below standard” category, ninety percent of teachers were “teaching out of their certification area,” the state average is eleven percent and the register in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, was sharply reduced, from 71 (6th grade), to 46 (7th grade) and 29 (8th grade): what happened to the kids? In addition the school SWD and ELL students are far below the district averages.

Why did the NYC Department of Education approve the application? Why did the SED approve the application?

The school has a lobbyist who was a college roommate of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. I’m sure that’s only a coincidence. btw, who paid the lobbyist?

In spite of objections from some Regents members the SED lawyer bundled all three schools together instead of decoupling and voting separately.

Regent Cashin made a motion: a moratorium on approval of new charters and the grade expansion of existing charter schools for the remainder of the COVID emergency. She explained that with sharp cuts in district budgets, with districts facing layoffs and disruptions, to transfer money from public schools budgets to charter school budgets was unconscionable. The SED lawyer ruled her motion was “out of order.”

Any member of the Board can make a motion at any time. The Board should vote on whether to place the motion on the agenda. The Board “owns” the motion, not the lawyer, who is not a Board member.

If the lawyer meant the motion was not “germane” he was still wrong. If he was serving as a parliamentarian he gives advice to the chair, he does not participate in the debate, or make determinate decisions.

The whole business had what Goodman called “a noxious aroma,” a polite way of saying that the Regents’ rush to approve charters of dubious quality in the midst of a fiscal crisis stinks to high heaven.

Why incentivize privately run charters to divert funding and the students of their choice from the public schools.

Why are the Regents betraying the state’s public schools?

That noxious aroma is the smell that is released when politics seeps into decisions about school funding. Someone’s friends are being taken care of, at the expense of the public schools.

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights attorney who writes often for the Stamford (Ct.) Advicate. she writes here about the disgraceful double dipping of charter schools in Connecticut, taking funds designated for public schools, then seeking and getting federal funds intended for small businesses.

Are charter schools to be defined as public schools or private businesses? When it’s time to get public money, they insist they are public schools, even though they are controlled by private boards. But when the money is for private businesses only, they line up to get the money. They are shape-shifters.

Lecker writes that the charters got their share of money intended for public schools:

With the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, Congress provided federal aid to public schools, and specifically directed that charter schools receive aid as public schools. Connecticut public school districts and charter schools are receive comparable aid under the CARES Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (“ESSERF”). For example, New Haven will receive about $8 million, so a little more than $400 per student, and Amistad and Elm City charters, part of the Achievement First chain, will get similar per-pupil amounts. Bridgeport will receive about $9 million, or about $450 per student and Achievement First Bridgeport will be allocated a similar per-pupil amount. Hartford will get a little more than $10 million, or about $547 per student, and Achievement First Hartford will receive about the same per pupil. The per pupil amounts in Stamford’s public schools and charter school are similar as well. Stamford will receive $2.74 million for its approximately 16,600 students and Stamford Charter School for Excellence will receive a little more than $100 per pupil for its approximately 395 students — about the same as Stamford’s per-pupil allocation.

But that was not enough for the charters. They went for the federal Paycheck Protection Program to claim more money.

Lecker writes:

These charter schools, however, decided that when it comes to going after more federal dollars, it pays to be private entities as well. So each of these charters applied for and received significant forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans offered to small businesses in dire need as a result of the crisis.

Amistad Academy was approved for a loan of $2.7 million. So Amistad, a charter with a little more than 1,000 students, will receive a forgivable loan for more than the entire ESSERF allocation for Stamford Public Schools’ more than 16,000 students. Elm City’s loan is for $1.24 million; Achievement First Bridgeport’s loan totals $1.4 million, Achievement First Hartford’s loan is for $2.36 million and Stamford Charter School for Excellence’s loan is for $520,648. All these loans are forgivable, thus unlikely to be repaid.

In total, these loans total more than $8.2 million, covering 4,544 students. To compare, New Haven’s $8.5 million in ESSERF aid has to spread over 20,6675 students.

Public schools are in dire financial straits. Charters are not.

Lecker writes:

Are these charter schools really private small businesses in dire need? Last year, claiming charter schools were public schools, Dacia Toll, CEO of the Achievement First charter chain, complained that her schools were “starving” without more state funding. Looking at the most recent publicly available federal tax documents, Amistad has more than $30 million in net assets and reserves. Elm City, another Achievement First school, has more than $34 million in net assets and reserves, Achievement First Bridgeport has more than $6 million and Achievement First Hartford has almost $2 million. Stamford Charter School for Excellence has more than $2 million in net assets and reserves.

Meanwhile, public school districts across the state are facing massive funding cuts — some predicting cuts as high as 30 percent of their budgets. They also face steep increases in costs associated with reopening — from ensuring a clean and safe environment, to addressing the increased academic, social and health needs of their students. And now, with Gov. Ned. Lamont’s order that public schools reopen fully, in person, in the fall — without any promises to increase state aid — public school districts are in an even more precarious financial position. Public school districts are funded by local, state and, to a small extent, federal dollars. They have no options to tap into money intended for private businesses. Because public schools are public.

When charter schools are allowed to act as both private businesses and public schools, taxpayers end up paying twice. In these dire financial times, there are surely better uses for public funds than to double pay to pad the reserve funds of well-resourced charter schools.

The greed of the charter industry is shameful.

On July 8, you are invited to join a ZOOM discussion with me and Andre Perry.

Andre Perry has written a new book KNOW YOUR PRICE: VALUING BLACK LIVES AND PROPERTY IN AMERICA’S BLACK CITIES.

He was the leader in the New Orleans charter sector, then became disillusioned and left.

I am fascinated with people who have the courage to change.

Listen in to this conversation. We will talk for an hour, then invite your questions for half an hour.

July 8 at 7:30 pm.

The Network for Public Education has been tracking the charter schools that collected from the federal Paycheck Protectiin Program intended to help small businesses struggling to survive. The charter schools have not had any budget cuts, have lost no money, have not been struggling to pay employees, but their lobbyists get them included as eligible for the PPP funding, although public schools are not eligible.

The San Francisco Chronicle published a story about some of the charters in California that have applied for and received PPP money. You will not be surprised to see V that the Michelle Rhee-Kevin Johnson charter chain in Sacramento is among them.


WASHINGTON — Charter schools in the Bay Area received tens of millions of dollars from a federal coronavirus relief program intended for small businesses, money they say is necessary to stay afloat amid the pandemic.

The schools are alternatives to traditional public schools and are exempt from many state regulations related to class size, curriculum and teacher tenure, yet still receive state funding. Some of the Bay Area charters that got federal bailout money are also backed by Silicon Valley billionaires, and the board chairman of one school conceded that taking the aid could be an “optics issue.”

It’s the latest instance of the federal Paycheck Protection Program coming under scrutiny for giving money to businesses that fit the letter of the law, but which don’t fit the traditional notion of a small business. Among aid recipients were Shake Shack, the owner of Ruth’s Chris Steak House and the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, all of which gave back the money after it was reported that they were beneficiaries.

But some Bay Area charters say they are well within the spirit of the program. Many teach students from low-income or lesser-served communities, and they say they will accept any resource that keeps their teachers paid and schools open amid uncertainty about state education budgets.

The federal aid is in the form of low-interest loans that recipients don’t have to repay if they meet certain requirements, including keeping all their employees on the payroll. During the initial window for loan applications in May, Bay Area charter schools received funds from the program in amounts ranging from a few hundred thousand to several million dollars.

How we reported the story.

The Chronicle was approached by Parents United for Public Schools and In the Public Interest, which oppose charter schools and the privatization of education, with research they had done on schools that had received aid under the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The Chronicle then independently verified the information and conducted further research, including contacting policy makers.

The Chronicle was able to review charter boards’ meeting videos, audio recordings, minutes, documents and agendas to identify loan amounts and recipients. The Chronicle then contacted high-dollar recipients and schools named in the story to verify the information and to give them an opportunity to share their perspective on taking the low-interest federal loans.

Fourteen charter schools or chains in Oakland combined to receive roughly $20 million from the program. They included Education for Change, which runs six schools in the city and received $5.25 million, and Lighthouse Community Public Schools, which has two campuses and got $2.3 million.

Eight charter schools or chains in Santa Clara County combined to receive roughly $20 million. All but one received at least $1.5 million. Summit Public Schools, which has three schools in the county and a total of eight in the Bay Area, received $6.8 million.

At least two schools in San Francisco received loans. San Francisco Creative Arts Charter School got nearly $600,000. Envision Education’s City Arts and Tech High School also received a loan, but says the money will go to its consulting business — not the school that is supported by public funds. It did not divulge the amount it received.

And the St. Hope charter schools in Sacramento, whose board is chaired by school choice advocate Michelle Rhee and which was founded by her husband, former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, received more than $1.5 million.

Some of the loans were first publicized by Parents United for Public Schools and In the Public Interest, which oppose charter schools and the privatization of education. The Chronicle independently verified their research and conducted its own.

Traditional public schools are not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, and state-funded charter schools’ access to the loans raises questions among their critics about fairness.

“Because charter schools are currently receiving full funding as public schools intended to maintain employees, while at the same time receiving funding as private entities that are also intended to maintain employees, taxpayers are left covering what appears to be the same bill twice,” the groups said in a report questioning whether Oakland schools were “double dipping” on funds.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board has three core beliefs about education.

1. Public schools are horrible.

2. Teachers’ unions are evil.

3. Non-unionized charters and vouchers are the remedy to all that ails American education.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The three highest performing states in the nation—Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey—have strong teachers’ unions. None of the non-union states are at the top of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Unions fight for adequate resources and decent salaries for teachers, in addition to fighting for teachers’ right to fair treatment on the job. The resources help their students, and the job rights help retain career teachers.

Most recently the WSJ wrote a glowing editorial about the alleged success of vouchers in Florida, one of its favorite states because its governor and legislature have diverted $3 billion from public schools to non-union charters and vouchers. The editorialists are thrilled because Florida just recently expanded its voucher program.

Most vouchers in Florida are used in religious schools, most of which are evangelical Christian schools. The voucher schools are not required to take state tests. They are not required to be accountable in any way. They are not required to hire certified teachers or principals. The voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against gay students, staff, and families. They do not have to adopt the state standards and may use the Bible as their science textbook if they wish. The Orlando Sentinel wrote a revealing series about Florida’s voucher program, called “Schools Without Rules.”

Bear in mind that the size of a voucher—less than $8,000–guarantees that it will be accepted only by low-tuition schools, not by the schools of elite families, where tuition may be as high as $35,000-40,000 a year.

Here is the text of the WSJ editorial:

The headline is “Florida’s School Choice Blowout.”

The subtitle is: “The State Expands Its Successful K-12 Scholarship Program.”

Good news from Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed the biggest private school voucher expansion in U.S. history—giving families in Democratic, union-controlled states another reason to move to the Sunshine State.

Florida established the Family Empowerment Scholarship last year for low and middle-income families. The private school vouchers run between $6,775 and $7,250 per student depending on the grade level, and 87% of recipients come from households below 185% of the federal poverty level (about $48,470 for a family of four). Most are black or Hispanic.

Vouchers had been limited to 18,000 students this year with annual growth capped at about 7,000. This wasn’t enough to meet parental demand, and there are 35,000 eligible students on scholarship waiting lists. Republicans have now quadrupled the cap on annual growth so that 28,000 more students can benefit each year. If the voucher program’s capacity exceeds demand from eligible families, the new law will increase the household-income limit (currently 300% of the poverty line) by 25% so more middle-income families can apply. In short, supply of vouchers will now automatically expand to meet demand.

As a political trade, Mr. DeSantis gave public schools $500 million for salary increases—not that this appeased the teachers unions that oppose all school choice because it forces unionized public schools to compete for students. While voucher studies have shown mixed effects on academic performance, one reason is probably that giving parents more choice forces improvements at public schools. A National Bureau of Economic Research study this year found higher standardized test scores and lower absenteeism among students, especially low-income ones, who attended Florida public schools in areas where more students had access to private-school choice.

Notably, fourth-graders in Washington, D.C., and Miami-Dade in Florida showed the most improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores among large urban school districts since 2011. Both Florida and Washington, D.C., offer robust private-school choice and have eliminated teacher tenure. By contrast, student scores in most districts including Houston, Philadelphia and Baltimore have been flat or declined.

Jeb Bush kicked off Florida’s school choice movement two decades ago, and Rick Scott (now Senator) and Mr. DeSantis have built on his success. More than 130,000 students in Florida now receive scholarships. Florida is helping to increase social mobility and future incomes by expanding educational opportunity for all.

Here are the facts:

Florida’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a sample test of reading and mathematics in grades 4 and 8 for the nation, states, and some urban districts, have been mostly flat over the past decade. The NAEP scores don’t include voucher schools, because they are not held accountable in any way. The WSJ asserts that Florida is a great “success” story, that its fourth graders showed dramatic improvement from 2011-2019, but that is false. Why leave out the eighth graders? Could it be because the eighth grade scores in both Florida and Miami were flat?

Here are the NAEP results for 2019 in reading.

Here are the NAEP results in mathematics for 2019.

You can look at average scores over time for every state and for urban districts that asked to be tested, including Miami-Dade.

You can compare 2019 to previous years. The WSJ chose to compare 2019 to 2011, but I chose to compare 2019 to 2009. It’s not impressive for Florida or Miami no matter which year you choose.

Let’s check the progress of Florida and Miami on NAEP (public schools only):

Fourth grade reading: Scores unchanged since 2009.

Eighth grade reading: Scores unchanged since 2009.

Fourth grade mathematics: Scores unchanged since 2011 (Remember that Florida retains low-scoring third graders, which tends to inflate fourth -grade scores).

Eighth grade math: Scores unchanged from 2009-2019.

Since the WSJ refers to NAEP as evidence of Florida’s amazing performance, it’s worth noting that Florida has flat-lined for the last decade on NAEP.

We don’t know anything about the “success” of vouchers in Florida, since their students don’t take state tests or NAEP.

But we do know that rigorous voucher studies in other states—Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana, the District of Columbia—have shown that voucher students lose ground compared to their peers in public schools. (See here and here and here.)

Far from “expanding opportunity,” vouchers enable children to attend low-cost schools where they abandon their civil rights protections at the door, are instructed by uncertified teachers, and are likely to fall behind academically or return to their public school. One of the unexplored issues associated with voucher schools is their high attrition rates. When voucher boosters boast about their high school graduation rate, they fail to mention the number of kids who didn’t make it to senior year. Only the elitist Wall Street Journal would think of this as a boon for children and families.

The Relay “Graduate School of Education” was created by charter schools to train charter school teachers on test-score-raising and no-excuses discipline, while using Doug Lemov’s Bible “Teach Like a Champion.” It’s teachers mostly taught in charters.

Relay is called a graduate school, but it has no research faculty, no campus, no library, and at last review, no scholars or anyone with a doctorate.

Nonetheless, Relay has landed some contracts for professional development in districts run by corporate reformers and Broadies. The chancellor in D.C. is Lewis Ferebee, who previously led privatization efforts in Indianapolis.

In D.C., it does professional development for principals.

One principal in D.C. didn’t like Relay’s philosophy.

She was fired.

Parents were not happy.

Ceaira Richardson recited the challenges that make life in her Southeast D.C. neighborhood difficult.

Grocery options are sparse, making it tough to find fresh produce. Crime rates are higher than in other parts of the city. Keeping children safe is not always easy.

But she feels at ease at Lawrence E. Boone Elementary School, a recently modernized, light-filled campus not far from Richardson’s home. There, her three-year-old daughter is already reading. She senses teachers truly care about her child, so much so that she persuaded family members to send their children to the school.

“I told everybody, ‘Enroll in Boone. Enroll in Boone,’” Richardson said.

In recent months, Richardson and other members of the Boone community have rallied around the school’s principal, Carolyn Jackson-King, after they learned the veteran educator was fired and will not return to the position for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Teachers, parents and some D.C. lawmakers have demanded D.C. Public Schools reverse its decision. Jackson-King and her supporters say she was dismissed by the school system because she resisted teaching practices that educators at Boone felt were militaristic and racist.

“I just feel they attempted to control Black bodies,” Jackson-King said.

Ferebee had no comment.