Archives for category: Charter Schools

Christopher A. Lizotte of the University of Washington and Dan Cohen published an interesting research paper about how market-driven policies have been promoted and sold. The paper was published in 2014-2015, and the trends described here have become more powerful, promoted by some of the wealthiest people in the nation. The title of the paper is “Teaching the Market: Fostering Consent to Education Markets in the United States.”

Abstract. Marked-based reforms in education have garnered the support of politicians, philanthropists, and academics, reworking the nature of public education in the United States. In this paper we explore the methods used to produce consent for market-based reforms of primary and secondary (K-12) schooling in the United States, focusing on two case studies to interrogate how this consent is generated as well as how these reforms are resisted in place. In doing so we illustrate how market-making in public services is a contested terrain and the importance of understanding the nature of their roll-out at the local level.

Here is a brief excerpt:

We understand this shift toward marketization in education and its recent acceleration as being situated within the broad neoliberal shift towards privatization and deregulation of formerly public goods that has taken place over the past thirty years. As in other sectors that have been subject to this treatment, this process has occurred not simply through the retreat of the state but through the deliberate repurposing of the state to reshape its institutions in the image of a market (Peck and Tickell, 2002); indeed, many of the reforms that have taken place within education are the result of explicit state policies to create market pressures within education (Lubienski, 2005): These policies include (to name a few): the imposition of standardized testing as a method through which schools can be ‘judged’ by the market, the threat of school closures for ‘failing’ schools, and the use of selective grants to reward schools and districts conforming most closely to principles of deregulation and privatization. Crucially, however, these marketization processes require careful priming in order to generate public consent for market-based reforms. In particular, the marketization of education is powerfully promoted through the notion of school ‘choice’. Presented as an apolitical and socially neutral mechanism for allowing parents to maximize their children’s educational opportunities, choice is endowed with a moral authority that obscures the power inherent in who can exercise the power to choose and the available range of choices. This choice, it is argued, finds its natural expression in the expansion of markets as a supposedly level playing field where the best-performing options rise to the top and those that fail are eventually discarded. Indeed, as Rose (1999) claims, choice, defined as the individual maximization of opportunities, has become the litmus test by which good membership in the polity is defined. In this light, the term, like those used to describe other market-making projects in public services, hides assumptions about what kinds of choice can be legitimately exercised and under what circumstances. The power to ‘choose’ as it is understood under contemporary capitalism is a highly individualized capacity that seeks to maximize one’s return on investment. Other alternative possibilities tend to fade out of view in the language of most market-based school reformers.

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding is a champion of public schools in a state with many charters and vouchers.

He writes:

A primary purpose for the creation of the common school system for all the children of all the people was to maintain a republican form of government. Knowledgeable people in unity with one another will ward off tyranny, in favor of liberty and equality. A virtuous government operating for the common good is the goal.

Common is a term of art that has universally-accepted meaning. As applied to school, it indicates a place or institution that serves all children free of charge, paid for by taxation. It relates to the community at large, in a symbiotic relationship.

Common means “belonging to all, used jointly, shared by all.” The “common” system is required by the Ohio constitution, and the “system” must be thorough and efficient.

Tax-supported vouchers and charters are foreign to the common school system required by the constitution. They are not only foreign to the system, but are parasitical in taking funds away from the common system. These schemes divide, rather than unite. They serve not all, but selected students. Their goal does not necessarily match the goal of the common system—to maintain the republican form of government. Their relationship to the community is often strained or non-existent, as opposed to symbiotic.

The No Child Left Behind Act Has Put The Nation At Risk

Vouchers Hurt Ohio

William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 |ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net| http://ohiocoalition.org

The talented investigative journalist Jennifer Berkshire reports on the changing politics behind charter schools. Democratic support for charters, once led by the Obama administration, is waning. Betsy DeVos made clear that school choice is a Republican goal.

She writes:

In 2019, when West Virginia passed legislation that allowed for the creation of charter schools, it represented yet another feather in the cap of the school-choice movement. Nearly three decades after the creation of the very first publicly funded, privately managed school, in Minnesota, charters now educate more than 3.3 million K-12 students in 7,500 schools across the country, and West Virginia—where lawmakers ignored the fierce opposition of the state’s teachers’ union—became the forty-fifth state to allow them.

Yet today the charter school movement itself is perhaps more vulnerable than it has ever been. Unlikely allies in the best of times, its coalition of supporters—which has included progressives, free-market Republicans, and civil rights advocates, and which has been handsomely funded by deep-pocketed donors and Silicon Valley moguls—is unraveling.

Much of the blame rests on the hyperpolarized politics of the Trump era. Under Betsy DeVos, the lightning-rod secretary of education, Republicans rediscovered their love for private school vouchers and religious education. And with the taste for all things neoliberal on the wane within today’s Democratic Party, charter schools, long the favored policy plaything of the liberal donor class, are simply a harder sell….

The GOP’s most stunning move was to enact, without a single Democratic vote, the Hope Scholarship Program, a sweeping voucher program aimed at moving students out of what the right refers to derisively as “government schools.” Starting in 2022, West Virginia parents who withdraw their children from public schools will receive their child’s state share of public education funding—approximately $4,600 in 2021—to spend on virtually any educational cost: private school tuition, online education programs, homeschooling, tutors, even out-of-state boarding schools. Newly school-age students whose parents never intended to go the public route are also eligible for the funds, which can be banked and spent on future expenses, similar to a health savings account.

While West Virginia’s moves were the most dramatic, legislators in 18 states, including Florida, Indiana, Arizona, and New Hampshire, were close behind, creating private school–choice initiatives or expanding existing ones. Although lawmakers pointed to the pandemic’s shuttering of public schools as part of the justification, schools—both public and private—in most of these states remained open. For all of the bluster from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others about the importance of in-person schooling, the GOP’s favored school-choice programs increasingly bypass traditional classroom learning altogether. Instead, parents are encouraged to use publicly funded “education freedom accounts” to purchase an array of education “options,” much like television viewers who eschew cable packages for à la carte channels.

Charles Siler, a former lobbyist for the pro-privatization Goldwater Institute in Arizona, says that the GOP’s increasing hostility to public schools could ultimately harm charters as well. “The real target here is taxpayer-funded public education, and that’s a category that includes charters,” said Siler.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, wrote the following:

As you know, the House is trying to block federal funding to charters controlled by for-profits. But it will be an uphill battle. I recently did an investigation into the private sale of 69 charters by for-profit NHA. It is jaw-dropping. Please read about it and share. This is a critical time to get the word out. Thanks, Carol

https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/09/14/charter-school-scams/

Texas has gone overboard for charter schools, even though they consistently post worse results than public schools. In the state’s new plans, charter schools will not be held accountable for the performance of English-language learners or students with disabilities. That is grossly unfair to public schools but it should raise the ratings of charter schools.

A trusted friend who works for the Texas Education Agency sent this information:

The proposed Texas Charter School Performance Framework for 2020 has been posted for public comment. On page 19, in the Operations standards, “Program requirements: Special populations” and “Program requirements: Bilingual education/English as a second language populations” are marked as “N/A for 2020” instead of each counting for one point. These indicators, 3b and 3c, are struck out on page 20. There does not appear to be an explanation for these changes.
Appropriate handling of assessments is another deletion from the Operations standards on pages 23-24.
Due to the lack of academic accountability, the manual will reflect fiscal and operational indicators only, not academic indicators.

https://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/fidsreg/202103289-1.pdf

There are no academic indicators, which makes sense because there were no tests in 2020. But the state officials removed the program indicators for bilingual and special education populations from the Operations standards on which charter schools will still be rated. These indicators measure if charters meet program requirements such as employing certified teachers in these areas.

This is not the only exception made for charter schools. Those that get a D or F rating three years in a row are supposed to be closed by the state, but that accountability is seldom enforced. Indeed, the state allows failing charters to expand.

NPE ACTION’S NEW PROJECT TO BRING TALES FROM THE FRONTLINES OF PUBLIC SCHOOL ADVOCACY

Public schools remain incredibly popular among Americans across the political spectrum, even under the strains of a global pandemic and a divisive political culture being inflamed by opportunists seeking to push radical, unpopular agendas. Parents, students, volunteers, and communities who rely on and cherish their public schools deserve to be heard now more than ever. Public Voices for Public Schools, a community project of the Network for Public Education Action, launches today with tales from the frontlines of public school advocacy.

Unfortunately, public education in America has been under systematic attack for decades by an axis of right-wing political radicals, self-appointed reformers, opportunists, segregationists, and wealthy special interests, all working together to dismantle and privatize our treasured public schools. Their efforts have done lasting harm to students and their communities, and it is time those communities have a platform where their stories can be shared.

“After my two sons enrolled in a private school thanks to vouchers, I began to understand that school is about more than academics,” said Dountonia Batts, a former voucher parent. “As charter schools and vouchers expanded, the school system in Indianapolis was falling apart. All of the high schools in our neighborhood had been shut down, even as charter high schools were popping up. I realized I could no longer accept school vouchers for my children because it was unethical.”

People like Batts rarely get a chance to be heard, especially by policymakers who are often targeted for pressure by pro-privatization groups with access to campaign donations and full-time public relations machinery. That’s why Public Voices for Public Schools is so important, as it is a place to elevate the regular people in our community and help them have access to the tools to engage their elected representatives directly.

“Once I understood that our funders wanted us to help them burn down the entire public school system, I realized I had very different intentions than the school reform movement,” said Gloria Evans Nolan, a former Missouri education reformer. “I could see for myself the toll that education “reform” was having on my city. The result was that our sense of community was dropping away. We were also losing our history. Every school I attended is now closed.”

Public Voices for Public Schools will regularly bring you stories from parents like Batts and Nolan, students, academics researching the effects of privatization, along with many others. Visit us at pv4ps.org where you can join our shared community and always be kept up to date. You will learn what you can do to preserve a pillar of our democracy, our neighborhood public schools.
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The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District will vote Tuesday on a funding scheme promoted by conservatives and neoliberals. Its promoters call it “student-centered funding,” but that’s a euphemism for the “backpack full of cash” idea, which encourages school choice. Critics of SCF say it introduces free-market principles into school funding and will benefit charter schools while harming public schools.

Jack Ross of the California-based journal “Capitol & Main” writes about the debate over student-centered funding.

Even though it is flush with cash from several federal relief packages, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) wants to switch funding models next year, instituting a controversial structure called Student Centered Funding (SCF) that ties a school’s funding to its student enrollment. Under SCF, schools are awarded a base rate for each child and receive additional funds if the student is considered needier — if they are learning English, for instance, or if they’re in foster care or qualify for free lunch.

If the student leaves the school, the funding goes with them as if they carried a “backpack full of cash.” This could pit schools against each other in a competition for students and the dollars they guarantee, critics say. The funding switch has its origins with Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of education, who instituted grants for school districts to explore Student Centered Funding. Los Angeles received one last year

LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg says Student Centered Funding will fuel downward enrollment spirals that will shutter underfunded schools in poor neighborhoods. The more students leave, the less money a school has, and parents and children begin jumping ship at an increasing rate. Proponents of the model say SCF gives schools more flexibility to spend their money on what they need rather than locking them into certain programs designed by remote authorities, like the school board or the state or federal government.

Goldberg disagrees. “[SCF] says districts don’t need to spend the money, individual schools do, by trying to assemble the right combination of kids with the right combination of money,” she says. “A child that’s learning [English as] a second language and has a disability, you might get a lot of money for that student. What do you do if you’re a principal? You start recruiting those students — because they bring their money with them.”

LAUSD insists Student Centered Funding furthers equity by placing schools in better control of how they use their money, and by more directly targeting money at the neediest students. “It really is that iterative process of contending with, what do we do now to better serve our students?” Deputy Superintendent Pedro Salcido told the board. “Student Centered Funding really is that next iteration: How do we deepen the work, how do we deepen progress in our schools?”

In LAUSD’s own calculations of how SCF would affect its school budgets under a “fully loaded” funding formula, 348 schools were found to lose money under SCF, while 367 schools would gain

Sorting the data by percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch reveals further inequities. Ann Street Elementary in Downtown Los Angeles, which tops the list with 100% of its students receiving free or reduced lunch, will lose $3,197 per student and $268,568 in total. It’s not alone: Of the schools with 95% to 100% of students qualifying for free lunch, 29 will lose money under Student Centered Funding, the district found. Between the 85th and 94th percentiles, 141 schools face cuts.

Under a similar student-centered funding policy (lower-cased when we refer to the broader policy; capitalized when we refer to the LAUSD model), Chicago public schools went from 460 librarians in 2012 to 123 in 2020, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. More research on the implementation of student-centered funding in Chicago found teachers felt pressured to take on extra classes because of tightening budgets, while some teachers were just laid off.

“As we lose students, we have less and less resources for the things we need,” one participant says. “The librarian got pulled from being a librarian to be a special education teacher because it was cheaper and because she was certified in that area. So, staff don’t teach what they love, and arts education has to be sacrificed because they are deemed as less important….”

Jill Wynn saw student-centered funding up close. The former San Francisco school board member says the system can flourish — as long as it includes strong protections for low-enrollment schools.

A self-proclaimed charter skeptic, Wynn is a “big fan” of student-centered funding models, which she believes can guarantee extra funding for schools with the neediest children while freeing them from restrictive requirements on how that money must be spent.

But the system works only if it sets in place rules the schools must follow with their money, she explains. When it switched to its own student-centered funding model, the San Francisco School Board mandated that all schools had to use their allotted funds for library services and some music and arts programs, and schools were guaranteed a minimum amount of funding to protect small schools from closure.

What advice would she give to LAUSD if it adopts the model? “Put the guardrails in and make them high,” she says

A 4-3 pro-charter majority on the school board means opposition to SCF is, for now, probably futile. But with a year until implementation of the new model, and an outraged and organized teachers’ union, the fight over Student Centered Funding is likely just beginning.

Jan Resseger, a prominent social justice advocate in Ohio, recently wrote about Jeb Bush’s cliche-ridden defense of for-profit charter schools. The House of Representatives passed a budget proposal to prohibit federal funding of them. Jeb Bush is a relentless proponent of privatization:

Her commentary was published by the National Education Policy Center. She begins:

It’s clear that the charter school lobby is upset about the House of Representatives’ effort in its proposed budget resolution to curtail abuses in the federal Charter Schools Program and to reduce the program’s appropriation by $40 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

Jeff Bryant explained last week: “The top lobbying group for the charter school industry is rushing to preserve millions in funds from the federal government that flow to charter operators that have turned their K-12 schools into profit-making enterprises, often in low-income communities of color. The group, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), objects to a provision in the House Appropriations Committee’s proposed 2022 education budget that closes loopholes that have long been exploited by charter school operators that profit from their schools through management contracts, real estate deals, and other business arrangements.”

The executive director of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Nina Rees went on C-Span to try to defend the program, and now it’s clear that the organization is calling on old allies to push Congress to cancel the House Appropriations Committee’s proposed elimination of all federal funding for charters operated for-profit by Charter Management Organizations. Bryant reminds us that Nina Rees was the deputy assistant for domestic policy for former Vice President Dick Cheney.

This week Jeb Bush, the ultimate old advocate for school privatization, came out of the woodwork with an op-ed circulated all over the country by the Tribune News Service. Bush’s piece appeared in our Sunday Cleveland Plain Dealer. Toward the end of his article, Bush gets to the point and protests the proposed House Budget Resolution: “Not only does it specifically cut $40 million in education funding (from the Charter Schools Program), but the House budget bill also includes alarming language that would prevent any federal funds from reaching any charter school ‘that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.’”

Bush thinks that the U.S. Department of Education ought to be allowed to make grants to charter schools whose operators are, in many cases, collecting huge profits at the expense of our tax dollars and at the expense of children whose education programming is reduced to ensure operators can make a profit. I guess he isn’t bothered by the charter management companies that have managed to negotiate sweeps contracts that gobble up more than 90 percent of the state and federal operating dollars and manage the school without transparency.

Open the link and read the rest.

Bruce Baker of Rutgers University is one of the nation’s foremost experts on school funding and spending. He reports here on the differences between charter schools and public schools. Back in the late 1980s, when the charter idea was first promoted, it’s advocates claimed that charters would be more accountable, would produce higher test scores, and would cost less. We now know—30 years later—that none of these promises were realized.

Baker writes:

Many of us are frequently bombarded with claims that district schools have a huge revenue and spending advantage over charter schools, and those claims are almost always cited to the same series of junk comparisons produced by the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform. The authors of those reports would have everyone else believe that no other research has even been produced on the topic. Time and time again, the same authors have engaged in a circle of self-citation and reiteration of bogus findings from the same bogus and painfully amateur analyses – analyses that first and foremost fail to appropriately assign or attribute revenues allocated to the relevant children served, and second and equally problematic, fail to compare schools providing services of similar scope, to similar populations. I will provide a follow up post which explains the correct methods for making such comparisons. But first, what do real studies, performed by competent researchers find? 

 Baker (yeah… that’s me, so some self-citation here), Libby, and Wiley (2015), in a peer-reviewed article, find that in Houston, the average charter school spent about $424 less than predicted and NYC charter schools were spending $2,000 more than predicted given their population characteristics.[i] That is, using models to compare otherwise similar schools, spending gaps vary by context, with modest spending gaps disadvantaging charter schools in Houston, but with charters holding a significant spending advantage inNew York City

More recently, Knight and Toenjes (2020), in a study of Texas charter schools, found “after accounting for differences in accounting structures and cost factors, charter schools receive significantly more state and local funding compared to traditional public schools with similar structural characteristics and student demographics.”[ii]

In a study completed on behalf of the Maryland Department of Education, authors from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found:[iii]

“in all districts except Frederick, the predicted expense is less than the actual charter expense, indicating that average spending would be less for these charter schools if they followed the spending patterns of traditional schools in their district.”

That is, when modeled by regression analysis, given a variety of student and school characteristics, charter schools were spending more than expected (meaning, more than otherwise similar TPS). 

Authors from AIR arrived at similar findings using similar methods in a study completed as part of the Getting Down to Facts project in California:[iv]

“The conditional analyses, accounting for student needs and grade configuration, show that average traditional and charter spending within our sample were not substantially different in 2014-15 and 2015-16. In 2016-17, Aspire schools were expected to spend $1,000 or more than traditional schools in both LAUSD and OUSD when controlling for student needs and grade configuration (Exhibit B). When special education spending was excluded, Aspire and Green Dot schools in Los Angeles spent more than otherwise similar traditional schools in Los Angeles.”

So, yes, the squishy bottom line in all of this is that it depends on the context, and also may depend on the charter operator within that context, depending on the types of children they serve as well as their access to supplemental resources. It is certainly NOT the case that charter schools are systematically shorted large amounts of funding compared to their district school counterparts serving otherwise similar populations in regular elementary, middle and secondary schools. The studies above include estimates of funding differentials in at least some of the same locations for which the University of Arkansas studies proclaim vast disparities. 

The authors of these studies have been informed more than once, with detailed explanation as to why their methods are wrong and their findings incorrect, and with reference to studies, like those above which actually apply relevant, appropriate and standard methods. Instead of making any attempts to provide more accurate methods, or simply cease reporting, these same authors have made more and more egregious errors (see their latest on special education funding) leading to similarly erroneous – politically convenient – conclusions. 

It’s either complete incompetence, or intentional deceit – or perhaps a little of both (see next post on correct methods for evaluating charter/district school – or any between school spending variations). 

Open the link to read the citations.


 

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, reports the heartening news that support for school choice has declined in the latest poll by EdNext. EdNext is a pro-choice journal funded by the Hoover Institution and of there pro-choice organizations and individuals.

Support for Charters and Vouchers Has Dropped

Despite the myth that the pandemic resulted in an increased appetite for privatized alternatives to public schools, the opposite is true, according to a new poll just published by EdNext. Support for both charter schools and vouchers is down by substantial amounts. Only 33% of all Democrats now support charter schools–that’s an all-time low.  Less than half of all Americans (41%) now support them. Your constant advocacy for public schools and against privatized alternatives is paying off.

Democrats are beginning to see the pattern in the rug: Whatever is being pushed by Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch, the Walton family, and every rightwing foundation is not in the public interest.