Archives for category: Charter Schools

Our friend Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition posted the following news:

On June 29 Geneva Area City Schools adopted a resolution to invoice the state for charter school deductions

School Treasurer Kevin Lillie’s message and the Board’s resolution were forwarded to over 30 public officials and media persons. The spreadsheet should be of particular interest.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

This is treasurer Kevin Lillie’s message:

At the regular meeting of the Geneva Area City Board of Education on June 29, 2016, the Board unanimously approved a Resolution to invoice the State of Ohio through the Ohio Department of Education for past charter school deductions consisting of state and local funding.  Please see the attached Resolution and invoice.  Over the past 16 fiscal years, $4,265,924.70 has been taken away from Geneva Area City Schools via State Foundation Settlement deductions and sent to under-performing charter schools.  What originally started as a five-year experiment, which was never completed or never evaluated for effectiveness, has turned into a monster at a tremendous waste of taxpayer funds and irreparable harm to Ohio’s school children.  Many of these charter schools are for-profit ventures, draining money from Ohio to outside individuals and greedy corporations whose only motive is to line their pockets with easy cash.  These charter schools lack oversight and regulation and are wrought with fraud and corruption.  How does one explain away the NCAA not accepting transcripts form a particular online charter school, or FBI raids on a chain of charters operated by a Turkish Islamic cleric which imports teachers from Turkey instead of hiring Ohio citizens (only a small part of the problems with these particular charters), or a Dayton-area charter school spending $4,167 per pupil to rent the building it uses from a sister company?  It is for these reasons that the Geneva Area City Board of Education has chosen to invoice the State of Ohio and ODE for the full amount of the charter school deductions.

These charter school deductions have drained needed funds from our District and districts all over Ohio.  These deductions along with state funding reductions over the past seven years have forced many districts like ours to cut teachers and support staff, increase class sizes, reduce course offerings, cut some student activity groups and sports, and institute pay to participate fees to keep other sports.  Meanwhile, much of the taxpayers’ money taken from our District and sent to charter schools is being used for fraudulent advertising, high administration salaries, and campaign contributions.  It is time to clean up the fraud and corruption in charters and stop wasting taxpayer funds.

Also attached are spreadsheets comparing the performance Geneva Area City Schools to the charter schools receiving our resident students.  I hope you will take the time to read the resolution and invoice and view the charter school comparisons.

Sincerely, 
  

Kevin Lillie, Treasurer/CFO
Geneva Area City Schools
135 S. Eagle St.
Geneva, OH 44041
Ph:  440-415-9304
Fax:  440-466-0908
Email:  kevin.lillie@genevaschools.org

Please note new email address:  kevin.lillie@genevaschools.org  

Here is the Board’s resolution.

I can’t copy and paste the Board’s resolution. Please read it. It is powerful.

It makes clear that Ohio’s charters have made the state the “laughing stock of the nation” and that the state’s charters perform below public schools and are rife with corruption and fraud.

This is one impressive school board!

Andrew Rotherham, a key figure in the corporate reform movement, once worked in the Clinton White House. He has since gone on to found a consulting firm, Bellwether Education Partners, that represents many of the leading corporate reform groups.

Rotherham writes here that “education reform” (charter schools, high-stakes testing, and evaluation of teachers by test scores) is not dead. He writes to reassure his friends and allies in the corporate reform movement that Hillary will not abandon their ideas. No matter what the platform says, no matter what she told the AFT and the NEA, he says, you gotta believe that she still loves her friends in the corporate reform world.

The subtext is fear. Is she really going to expect charters to serve children with disabilities and English language learners, the charters wonder. Is she really going to listen to the hated teachers’ unions on the subject of education? Is she going to slow down the drive to privatize public schools? Is she going to stop closing schools in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods?

Never mind that all the reformers’ pet priorities have failed. Never mind that growing numbers of parents are opting their children out of state tests. Never mind that VAM has improved no school anywhere. Never mind that charters seldom outperform public schools and have often provided a platform for theft, fraud, and greed, whether they operate for profit or not-for-profit. Never mind that the Obama “reform” policies have helped to create teacher shortages in many states.

A new study in Michigan finds that the proliferation of charter schools has undermined the fiscal viability of traditional public schools.

David Arsen, a professor at the College of Education at Michigan State University, discovered that school choice and especially charters were diverting resources from public school districts, leaving them in perilous condition.

“Which Districts Get Into Financial Trouble and Why: Michigan’s Story” asserts that “80 percent of the explained variation in district fiscal stress is due to changes in districts’ state funding, to enrollment changes including those associated with school choice policies, and to the enrollment of high-cost special education students.”

In other words, the fiscal failings of DPS that we just addressed had less to do with poor spending on the part of district — though we’re sure there was some of that — and more to do with statewide policies, such as those that promote competition, that put the traditional district at a disadvantage.

“Overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent,” Arsen explained to education blogger Jennifer Berkshire (author of the website EduShyster) in a recent interview.

To read Jennifer Berkshire’s illuminating interview of David Arsen, open this link to her website.

Here is a portion of her interview:

David Arsen: The question we looked at was how much of this pattern of increasing financial distress among school districts in Michigan was due to things that local districts have control over as opposed to state-level policies that are out of the local districts’ control: teacher salaries, health benefits, class size, administrative spending. We also looked at an item that the conservative think tanks are big on: contracting out and privatization. We found that, overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent. We looked at every school district in Michigan with at least 100 students and we followed them for nearly 20 years. The statistics are causal; we’re not just looking at correlation.

EduShyster: There’s a table in your paper which actually made me gasp aloud—which I’m pretty sure is a first. I’m talking, of course, about the chart where you show what happened to Michigan’s *central cities,* including Detroit, as charter schools really started to expand.

Arsen: We have districts getting into extreme fiscal distress because they’re losing revenue so fast. That table in our paper looked at the central cities statewide and their foundation revenue, which is both a function of per-pupil funding and enrollment. They had lost about 22% of their funding over a decade. If you put that in inflation adjusted terms, it means that they lost 46% of their revenue in a span ten years. With numbers like that, it doesn’t really matter if you can get the very best business managers—you can get a team of the very best business managers—and you’re going to have a hard time handling that kind of revenue loss. The emergency managers, incidentally, couldn’t do it. They had all the authority and they cut programs and salaries, but they couldn’t balance the budgets in Detroit and elsewhere, because it wasn’t about local decision making, it was about state policy. And when they made those cuts, more kids left and took their state funding with them.

EduShyster: As you followed the trajectory of these school districts, was there a *point of no return* that you could identify? A tipping point in lost enrollment and funding from which they just couldn’t recover?

Arsen: When we looked at the impact of charter schools we found that overall their effect on the finances of districts statewide was modest. Then we looked to see if there were nonlinear, or disproportionate, impacts in those districts where charters enrolled very high and sustained shares of resident students. And then the results got huge. We saw very significant and large impacts of charter penetration on district fund balances for different thresholds, whether there were 15, 20 or 25% of the students going to charter schools. That was really striking. At every one of those thresholds, the higher the charter penetration, the higher the adverse impact on district finances. They’re big jumps, and they’re all very significant statistically. What’s clear is that when the percentage gets up to the neighborhood of 20% or so, these are sizeable adverse impacts on district finances.

Jeff Bryant writes here about Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock was the scene of one of the crucial battles in the movement to integrate public education after the Brown decision of 1954. When city and state officials refused to integrate Central High School, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and sent in 1,000 members of the 101st Airborne to enforce the court order to admit black students.

Jeff interviews a large number of citizens of Little Rock, who tell the story of the district. For a time, it was successfully integrated, or at least parts of it were. But the resistance never went away.

At present, the Walton Family Foundation is behind a state takeover of the entire district, even though only six of its 48 schools have been declared to be “failing” schools.

State Senator Joyce Elliott said to Jeff:

“We are retreating to 1957,” Elliott believes. Only now, instead of using Jim Crow and white flight, or housing and highways, the new segregationists have other tools at their disposal. First, education funding cuts have made competition for resources more intense, with wider disparities along racial lines. Second, recent state takeover of the district has spread a sense throughout the community of having lost control of its education destiny. Parents, local officials, and community activists continuously describe change as something being done to them rather than with them. And third, an aggressive charter school sector that competes with local public schools for resources and students further divides the community.

And lurking in the background of anything having to do with Little Rock school politics is the Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic organization connected to the family that owns the Walmart retail chain, whose headquarters is in Bentonville, Arkansas.

State Commissioner Johnny Key terminated Little Rock’s superintendent, Baker Kurrus:

The disenfranchisement of Little Rock citizens became especially apparent recently, when Commissioner Key suddenly, and without explanation, terminated the contract of Baker Kurrus, until then the superintendent of the Little Rock School District. (Key had originally appointed Kurrus himself.)

As veteran local journalist for the Arkansas Times Max Brantley explains, Kurrus was initially regarded with suspicion due to the takeover and the fact he was given the helm despite his lack of education background. But Kurrus had gradually earned the respect of locals due to his tireless outreach to the community and evenhanded treatment of oppositional points of view.

But many observers of school politics in Little Rock speculate Kurrus was terminated because he warned that charter school expansions would further strain resources in the district. In advising against expansions of these schools, Kurrus shared data showing charter school tend to under-enroll students with disabilities and low income kids.

He came to view charter schools as a “parallel school system” that would add to the district’s outlays for administration and facilities instead of putting more money directly into classroom instruction.

“It makes no sense” to expand charter schools, he is quoted as telling the local NPR outlet. “You’d never build two water systems and then see which one worked … That’s essentially what we’re doing” by expanding charters.

Kurrus also came to believe that increasing charter school enrollments would increase segregation in the city.

In a state where the Waltons have their headquarters, it is unthinkable that Little Rock have a superintendent who isn’t committed to the magic of charter schools. That contradicts the Walton philosophy. Kurrus had to go. Interestingly, one of the two charter chains (LISA) in Little Rock is identified by Sharon Higgins as Gulen charters.

A report on the academic performance of charters throughout the state of Arkansas in 2008-2009 found, “Arkansas’ charter schools do not outperform their traditional school peers,” when student demographics are taken into account. (As the report explains, “several demographic factors” – such as race, poverty, and ethnicity, – strongly correlate with lower scores on standardized tests and other measures of achievement.)

Specifically in Little Rock, the most recent comparison of charter school performance to public schools shows that a number of LRSD public schools, despite having similar or more challenging student demographics, out-perform LISA and eStem charters.

There’s also evidence charter schools add to the segregation of Little Rock. Soon after the decision to expand these schools, the LISA network blanketed the district with a direct mail marketing campaign that blatantly omitted the poor, heavily black and Latino parts of the city, according to an investigation by the Arkansas Times.xxx

In the state board’s vote to take over the district, as Brantley reports for the Times, members who voted yes had family ties to and business relationships with organizations either financed by the Walton Foundation or working in league with the Waltons to advocate for charter schools.

In another recent analysis in the Times, reporter Benjamin Hardy traces recent events back to a bill in the state legislature in 2015, HB 1733, that “originated with a Walton-affiliated education lobbyist.” That bill would have allowed an outside non-profit to operate any school district taken over by the state. The bill died in committee when unified opposition from the Little Rock delegation combined with public outcry to cause legislators to waver in their support.

So what the Waltons couldn’t accomplish with legislation like HB 1733 they are currently accomplishing by influencing official administration actions, including taking out Kurrus and expanding charters across the city.

The Waltons recently announced that they plan to spend $250 million annually to expand charter schools. They selected 17 urban districts that they would pour money into. One of them is Little Rock.

Gene V. Glass here reproduces the Republican platform on education. The Republican platform supports school choice, the public display of the Ten Commandments, merit pay, two-parent families, and a Constitutional amendment to keep government from interfering with parental rights over children. (I am reminded of the day in 2012 when Mitt Romney went into an all-black school in Philadelphia and spoke out about the virtues of two-parent families; the principal told him that few of the children had two parents, which left open the question of what educators are supposed to do in the face of reality.)

The Republican platform supports home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, early-college high schools, and vouchers. It does not mention support for public schools, except as a place where students should be permitted to pray. The platform also believes that military service is a better credential for teaching than any study or practice in a professional education program.

The platform does not acknowledge the growing body of evidence that vouchers and charters do not provide superior educations to poor children.

We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and further affirm the rights of religious students to engage in voluntary prayer at public school events and to have equal access to school facilities. We assert the First Amendment right of freedom of association for religious, private, service, and youth organizations to set their own membership standards.

Children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage. We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation.

We call for removal of structural impediments which progressives throw in the path of poor people: Over-regulation of start-up enterprises, excessive licensing requirements, needless restrictions on formation of schools and day-care centers serving neighborhood families, and restrictions on providing public services in fields like transport and sanitation that close the opportunity door to all but a favored few. We will continue our fight for school choice until all parents can find good, safe schools for their children.

Education: A Chance for Every Child

Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a cultural identity. That is why American education has, for the last several decades, been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces from outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America. They have done immense damage. The federal government should not be a partner in that effort, as the Constitution gives it no role in education. At the heart of the American Experiment lies the greatest political expression of human dignity: The self- evident truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care, and upbringing. We support a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations. We reject a one- size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level. We likewise repeat our long- standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage the parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it. Their education reform movement calls for choice-based, parent-driven accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of local control of our schools and it wisely sees consumer rights in education — choice — as the most important driving force for renewing education. It rejects excessive testing and “teaching to the test” and supports the need for strong assessments to serve as a tool so teachers can tailor teaching to meet student needs. Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education in which all students can reach their potential.

We applaud America’s great teachers, who should be protected against frivolous lawsuits and should be able to take reasonable actions to maintain discipline and order in the classroom. Administrators need flexibility to innovate and to hold accountable all those responsible for student performance. A good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high school districts.

Rigid tenure systems should be replaced with a merit-based approach in order to attract the best talent to the classroom. All personnel who interact with school children should pass background checks and be held to the highest standards of personal conduct.

Academic Excellence for All

Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education in which all students can reach their potential. Republicans are leading the effort to create it. Since 1965, the federal government, through more than 100 programs in the Department of Education, has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with little substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates. The United States spends an average of more than $12,000 per pupil per year in public schools, for a total of more than $620 billion. That represents more than 4 percent of GDP devoted to K-12 education in 2011-2012. Of that amount, federal spending amounted to more than $57 billion. Clearly, if money were the solution, our schools would be problem-free. More money alone does not necessarily equal better performance. After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards. Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity. We strongly encourage instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers.

Choice in Education

We support options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools. We especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits. Empowering families to access the learning environments that will best help their children to realize their full potential is one of the greatest civil rights challenges of our time. A young person’s ability to succeed in school must be based on his or her God-given talent and motivation, not an address, ZIP code, or economic status. We propose that the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them.

In sum, on the one hand enormous amounts of money are being spent for K-12 public education with overall results that do not justify that spending level. On the other hand, the common experience of families, teachers, and administrators forms the basis of what does work in education. In Congress and in the states, Republicans are bridging the gap between those two realities. Congressional Republicans are leading the way forward with major reform legislation advancing the concept of block grants and repealing numerous federal regulations which have interfered with state and local control of public schools. Their Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act — modernizing workforce programs, repealing mandates, and advancing employment for persons with disabilities — is now law. Their legislation to require transparency in unfunded mandates imposed upon our schools is advancing. Their D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should be expanded as a model for the rest of the country. We deplore the efforts of Congressional Democrats and the current President to eliminate this successful program for disadvantaged students in order to placate the leaders of the teachers’ unions.

To ensure that all students have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students’ ability to advance in American society. We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. That approach — the only one always effective against premarital pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease — empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception and believe that federal funds should not be used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs. The federal government has pushed states to collect and share vast amounts of personal student and family data, including the collection of social and emotional data. Much of this data is collected without parental consent or notice. This is wholly incompatible with the American Experiment and our inalienable rights.

We urge state education officials to promote the hiring of qualified veterans as teachers in our public schools. Their proven abilities and life experiences will make them more successful instructors and role models for students than would any teaching certification.

Valerie Strauss interviewed Samuel Abrams, director of the Teachers College, Columbia University, National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, about his important new book, Education and the Commercial Mindset. The book is an in-depth, beautifully written history of the privatization movement.

Read the interview. It will make you want to read this brilliant book.

Here is one small excerpt:

Abrams: Privatization takes the form of nonprofit as well as for-profit school management, as privatization technically means outsourcing the provision of government services to independent operators, whether nonprofit or for-profit. Insufficient transparency and, thus, accountability can become problems. While nonprofit charter operators must file 990s with the IRS documenting expenses and salaries, for instance, many are less detailed in their reportage than they should be. Moreover, these charters report only indirectly, if at all, to elected school board members.

Yet there are far greater issues with outsourcing school management to nonprofit charter operators: First, this outsourcing generates the atomization of school districts, meaning the diminishment of neighborhood schools and the civic involvement such neighborhood affiliation involves; second, this atomization makes for navigational challenges for many parents, who either have a hard time finding the right school for their children or getting them there day after day when the school is across town; third, this atomization translates into “good schools” and “bad schools,” with students who can’t succeed in the “good schools” concentrated in the “bad schools,’ which are often default neighborhood schools, where learning can become far harder given the negative effects struggling students can have on other students. In sum, such outsourcing leads to opportunities at high-performing schools for some students but leaves many others behind.

Privatization accordingly amounts to a flawed response to state failure, not a solution. The solution calls for investing the resources necessary to make all neighborhood schools solid in the way all neighborhood schools are solid in middle- and upper-class suburbs, with well-paid teachers, good working conditions and smaller classes. But we have to go further than that. We have to invest in quality preschool, with college-educated teachers, so children show up to school ready to learn. We have decades of evidence of the positive impact of quality preschool. It’s expensive, but only in the short run. We likewise must invest in school-associated medical, dental and counseling services, which are also expensive but only in the short run. Privatization has brought many bright, dedicated agents of change, but it diverts us from addressing our state failure squarely.

When Strauss asked him what was the change he would make immediately if he could, he said he would abolish the annual testing that was mandated by No Child Left Behind, continued by Race to the Top, and is embedded in the “Every Student Succeeds Act.”

I want to be super fair to Mike Pence. So I am introducing him by citing the Wikipedia entry about him, which is factual.

Note that he is proud to support the Tea Party. Note also his leadership of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, which is affiliated with the State Policy Network. The latter is a hard-right organization that supports charter schools and vouchers and opposes public sector unions. It is affiliated with ALEC, another hard-right group that wants to privatize public schools and eliminate teachers’ unions.

Pence, as we know, supported this agenda as governor. Many Indianans are happy to see him give up his chance to run again, giving them an opportunity to pick a better governor for their state.

In his zeal to reduce the power of government, Pence denies that smoking is dangerous to one’s health.

Pence also denies that climate change is a problem. He has said that “global warming is a myth.”

Maybe his function on the ticket is to make Trump look like a moderate by contrast.

Mercedes Schneider describes here a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center to block the public funding of charter schools.

SPLC cites the state constitution, which requires that all public funds go to public schools that are overseen by the local district and the state. Charter schools are overseen by neither.

Currently the state has three charter schools operating in Jackson, with another 14 set to open this fall. Eleven of the 14 will be in Jackson.

Mercedes provides an excerpt from the lawsuit:

Section 206 of the Mississippi Constitution provides that a school district’s ad valorem taxes may only be used for the district to maintain its own schools. Under the CSA, public school districts must share ad valorem revenue with charter schools that they do not control or supervise. Therefore, the local funding stream of the CSA is unconstitutional.

Section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution forbids the Legislature from appropriating money to any school that is not operating as a “free school.” A “free school” is not merely a school that charges no tuition; it must also be regulated by the State Superintendent of Education and the local school district superintendent. Charter schools– which are not under the control of the State Board of Education, the State Superintendent of Education, the Mississippi Department of Education, the local school district superintendent, or the local school district– are not “free schools.” Accordingly, the state funding provision of the CSA is unconstitutional. …

The CSA heralds a financial cataclysm for public school districts across the state. … The future is clear: as a direct result of the unconstitutional CSA funding provisions, traditional public schools will have fewer teachers, books, and educational resources.

The SPLC is right to point out the devastating financial impact that the funding of charters will have on public schools. This is a point that is always overlooked, ignored, or dismissed by corporate reformers. As long as they get what they want, they don’t care what happens to the majority of children.

The New York Daily News reports that the wealthy PAC that wants more charter schools has targeted four legislators for defeat because they defend public schools and oppose privatization.

A Super PAC pushing for enactment of a controversial education tax credit to benefit private and parochial schools is targeting Bronx Democratic state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and three Assembly Democratic incumbents in the upcoming Sept.13 primaries, records show.

The PAC, New Yorkers for Independent Action, has already reported spending nearly $256,000 of the $2.78 million it has raised since January on polling and campaign literature in the districts currently represented by Rivera and Assembly members Phil Ramos (D-Suffolk County), Pamela Harris (D-Brooklyn), and Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn).

The PAC reported it is supporting Councilman Fernando Cabrera against Rivera, Giovanni Mata against Ramos, former Assembly aide Kate Cucco against Harris, and City Councilwoman Darlene Mealey against Walker.

New Yorkers for Independent Action’s treasurer is Thomas Carroll, who is president of Invest In Education Foundation, an education reform group.

Tom Carroll started the Brighter Choice charter chain in Albany with the goal of replacing all public schools. Several of his schools closed because of academic deficiencies.

EduShyster posts a guest column by a Denver teacher who tells the inside story of the reformers’ current “success” story.

Denver has gone all in for school choice, and the teacher was bombarded with messages to market the school, come up with a “vision statement,” even as she and other teachers were coping with budget cuts that eliminated electives.

The students at my school were among some of the neediest in the state in terms of free and reduced lunch funding, and some of the most affected by trauma. In other words, they were students who needed the most support. The budget cuts began in my third year there, and only got worse as students left to attend other *choice* schools that were opening nearby. For students, that meant the loss of our only school-staffed, non-academic elective other than art: drama. For teachers, that meant rationing paper, although we considered ourselves fortunate relative to schools that were rationing toilet paper and paper towels.

Disruption became the only constant.

This year, it became very clear that the Denver Public Schools has shifted focus. Nearly 500 staff were cut, most of them teachers, including 372 full-time positions that, according to one news report, *will be completely lost.* For Denver’s students, nearly seventy percent of students relying on free and reduced lunches, that will mean larger class sizes, taught by less experienced teachers, not to mention the absolute absence of electives from some schools. It’s all about the Return on Investment, but what, exactly, is DPS investing in?

Open shut
shutterstock_121985983.jpg (1000×631)Much of Denver’s school reform has focused on the creation of new charter schools. Since 2005, DPS has opened more than 70 schools, most of which are charters. One of these opened near my former school, causing our enrollment to decline, which then triggered more budget cuts in our already bare-bones staffing. But at least my school stayed open. Forty eight schools have closed in the past ten years. In fact, DPS officials attributed the enrollment loss that triggered the most recent round of budget cuts and teacher layoffs in part to school closures.

It is a sad story. Remember it the next time you read something about Denver as a model of reform. In a way, it is. It shows how school choice destroys public education.

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