Archives for category: Education Industry

Good news from the Education Law Center: Several civil rights groups in New Jersey are suing to stop the state from using PARCC as a high school graduation requirement.

Several New Jersey civil rights and parent advocacy organizations have filed a legal challenge to new high school graduation regulations recently adopted by the State Board of Education. The new rules make passing the controversial PARCC exams a requirement for a New Jersey high school diploma and will also prevent students who opt out from graduating.

The lawsuit was filed in New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, on October 21st on behalf of the Latino Action Network (LAN), the Latino Coalition of New Jersey (LCNJ), the Paterson Education Fund (PEF) and the Education Law Center (ELC). ELC and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) are co-counsel.

The lawsuit says the new regulations violate the NJ graduation statute and other applicable laws in several ways:

The state law requiring a graduation test, originally passed in 1979, explicitly requires an 11th grade test that assesses state standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. Instead, the State Board designated the PARCC ELA10, a tenth grade exam, and the PARCC Algebra I test, which is given across a wide range of middle and high school grades, as the primary high school graduation tests.

The new rules undermine important protections established by the Legislature, such as eliminating retesting opportunities required by the graduation statute.

The designation of a 10th grade graduation test deprives English Language Learners (ELLs) of an extra year to develop their language ability.

The use of fee-based tests like the SAT and ACT as “substitute competency tests” through 2020 will restrict low-income students’ access to diplomas. Because NJ’s at-risk students are more likely to be members of racial minority groups or ELLs, use of fee-based assessments will have a negative, disparate impact on these student groups, a violation of their civil rights.

The substitute assessments are also not 11th grade tests and, as the Department has acknowledged, are not aligned with state standards. The lawsuit alleges these provisions violate the state constitution’s Education Clause and state anti-discrimination law.

Under the new rules, the substitute assessments will be eliminated after 2020, and students who do not pass PARCC ELA10 and Algebra 1 will have only one other option to graduate: the NJ Department of Education’s time-consuming “portfolio appeals” process. Access to the portfolio appeal will be restricted to students who took all PARCC exams during their high school years.

If these new rules had been in effect for the class of 2016, more than half of the senior class—50-60,000 students—would have been at risk of not graduating. In 2015, the passing rate on the PARCC ELA10 was 37 percent and on the PARCC Algebra I it was 36 percent. In 2016, the rates were 44 percent and 41 percent, respectively. Passing rates on the previous graduation test, the High School Proficiency Assessment, were above 90 percent.

Preparing tens of thousands of portfolio appeals for seniors who do not pass PARCC would be a major new burden for staff and students, particularly in high needs districts. Last year, about 11,000 seniors needed portfolios to graduate. Students who needed portfolios after multiple rounds of testing faced more lost instructional time, increased stress and disrupted senior plans. Districts using the portfolio process incurred extra costs for staff time, additional test administrations, and after-school and Saturday sessions devoted to preparing portfolios for review.

“Setting high school graduation standards is an important public policy issue,” said Christian Estevez, President of the LAN. “It’s also important to protect the rights of students to the opportunities that a high school diploma represents.”

PEF’s Executive Director Rosie Grant added, “NJ has sustained one of the highest graduation rates in the country, in part because we’ve always had multiple ways for students to earn a high school diploma. We want to make sure students continue to have multiple opportunities to succeed.”

The decision to tie high school diplomas to specific test scores is a state policy decision, not a federal mandate. Currently, fewer than one-third of all states use high school exit tests, and several states have used the transition to new assessment systems to eliminate them. Many states continue to give tests for diagnostic and accountability purposes without using the scores to make graduation decisions for individual students. A bill now pending in the NJ Legislature (S2147/A3849) would allow for that alternative.

“The State Board of Education is going full-steam ahead with a plan that breaks New Jersey law and, more disturbingly, disproportionately harms the most vulnerable students,” said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Ed Barocas. “The state knows about the PARCC’s high failure rates, extreme racial disparities, and deep economic divisions in passing scores, and yet officials decided to use this test as a key criterion for graduation despite the glaring problems. The New Jersey Board of Education has put New Jersey students on the wrong course.”

PARCC, a federally-funded consortium that produced the new tests, once had 25 state members. But today only six remain, and just three use PARCC at the high school level. Only NJ and New Mexico currently use PARCC exams as a high school graduation requirement.

“Ultimately, the legislature needs to revisit NJ’s exit testing policies,” said Stan Karp, Director of ELC’s Secondary Reform Project. “Until then, this lawsuit seeks to safeguard the rights of students and families, particularly in high need districts and schools.”

At a policy forum in Miami before the Council of the Great City Schools, surrogates for Trump and Clinton clarified their views, sort of.

Carl Paladino, remembered in New York for his racist and sexist emails during his campaign against Cuomo, promised that Trump would not put an educator in charge of the Education Department. That’s no surprise. In other settings, both Trump and Paladino have promised to turn all federal funding over to charters and vouchers and to abandon public education.

Clinton’s surrogate said that she is a “big backer” of charter schools, but not for-profit schools. That is not at all reassuring, since some of the most rapacious charter schools are technically non-profit but are managed by for-profit EMOs. And some rapacious charter chains are non-profit but pay their executives obscene salaries. And some non-profits are agents of privatization, even when the profit motive is absent.

The article also said:

During her 2016 campaign, Clinton’s position on charters became a bit less clear. During her time as a U.S. senator from New York, for example, Clinton was a supporter of charters. She’s even taken some grief from the teachers’ unions for that stance. But during this White House run, she also criticized charters for not necessarily accepting all the same students that traditional public schools do. And she’s said charters should supplement what public schools do and not replace them.

She was right. Charter schools do not accept the same students that real public schools do. They can admit those they want and kick out those they don’t want. And while it is admirable to say that charters should not replace public schools, the reality is that charters drain both resources and students from public schools, causing public schools to cut their programs and staff and to have even less capacity to serve the overwhelming majority of students.

The United States simply cannot afford to have a dual school system: one that chooses the students it wants, and the other required to accept all who apply. No high-performing nation in the world operates a dual school system.

If Clinton is to have an intelligent policy about public and charter schools, she must be better informed than she is now, and she can’t rely solely on charter advocates for her information about the way charters are systematically eroding public education in America. She need only look at what is happening in Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, and a dozen or more other states.

She might learn that more than 90% of charters are non-union. She might bear in mind that her strongest supporters have been the NEA and the AFT, whose jobs will be lost as charters expand.

Profit is not the only issue, though it is one. The central issue is privatization and the danger to America’s historic commitment to universal public education, doors open to all, not to some.

The good news is that one of the Podesta emails leaked by Wikileaks said that a group of billionaire reformers organized by Laurene Powell Jobs wanted to meet with Hillary but she couldn’t make time for them, and Podesta responded:

Probably worth the time. Not sure we can reassure them. Want to discuss by phone?

Note bene: she didn’t make time to meet with them, and the staff was not sure it could reassure them. That’s a good sign. Take that, reformers!

Carl Petersen is a candidate for the Los Angeles Unified School Board in 2017. He is also a close observer of school board meetings and a strong supporter of public schools.

In this post, he describes the last school board meeting, where five charters were not renewed. Three of them were part of the Fethullah Gulen charter chain called Magnolia (in Los Angeles), and the two others were Celerity charters. This was quite a shocker for the charters involved because the LAUSD has a long record of nearly automatic renewal of all charters (according to the article, 155 of 159 charters have been renewed).

Carl notes that despite the fact that most students in Los Angeles attend public schools, not charter schools, the agenda of every meeting is dominated by charter schools. It is as though the public schools disappeared and no one noticed.

He writes:

Last year, the charter industry invested “nearly $2.3 million” in “the nation’s most expensive school board elections” to ensure that they were free from the inconvenience of oversight. While the California Charter School Association (CCSA) has stated that they “are deeply concerned that this month District staff have recommended more charter renewal [denials] and material revision denials than they have in the last five years combined”, the recommendations against Magnolia and Celerity should not have been a surprise or seen as a change in policy. In 2014, the Board voted against two other Magnolia campuses “for fiscal mismanagement and a slew of other accounting irregularities.” Celerity had two charter renewal petitions rejected last November. The Board’s interest in the “financial shenanigans” at ECRCHS is a little more surprising, especially since their charter was renewed last year with at least two Notices to Cure outstanding. However, the publicity provided by the Los Angeles Daily News investigative reports most likely made the irregularities more difficult to ignore.

The is no way that the allegations against any of these charters could be considered nit-picking. Neither the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) nor the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) felt that Magnolia was providing all of the information that was requested of them. It is important to note that Magnolia had agreed to let FCMAT audit their operations to settle a previous dispute with the LAUSD over the renewal of some of their other charters. The organization holding the charter for Celerity was accused of being a shell. According to CSD testimony at the Board meeting, the Governing Board is controlled by a third party which refuses to cooperate in any way with LAUSD’s oversight. Up until reaching a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the District just prior to the meeting, ECRCHS had refused to terminate their principal after he was caught charging expensive meals, $95 bottles of wine, first class airfare and personal charges on the school’s credit card. Interestingly, the Governing Board was also accused of violating California’s Brown Act, which they appear to have done again when they appointed a team to negotiate the MOU at their meeting on Monday night even though this issue did not appear on their published agenda.

Here is the Board’s complaint about the Magnolia (Gulen) charter schools:

If the charter schools had their way, there would be no oversight at all, no supervision, and no accountability for anything they do.

Under Governor Jerry Brown and the state school board, that has the common practice. The California Charter Schools Association is shocked when any school board has the temerity to exercise any oversight, fiscal or academic.

T.C. Weber, a public school parent in Nashville, can’t understand why voters in Georgia would vote to create a state takeover of low-scoring schools to turn them over to charter operators. It hasn’t worked in Tennessee, despite the propaganda, and there’s no reason to believe that it will work anywhere else. What’s worse, it defunds public schools so that the charters get whatever they want.

“On November 8, Georgia residents will head to the polls, and, along with their presidential vote, will decide on whether or not to give the state the power to take over so-called failing schools. As a parent of two children who attend a school that sits right outside the periphery of the priority school list, I urge you reject this idea. No matter what they try to tell you, the Achievement School District in Tennessee has been an unmitigated failure. The only thing the ASD has been successful at is creating another government entity rife with financial mismanagement and becoming an endless source of debate as they constantly change goals.

“As I said earlier, I’ve got two children in a school that for all intents and purposes is a “priority school,” and I hate that term. First of all, I believe all schools should be “Priority Schools,” meaning that we should make it a priority that all schools have the resources they need. Taking schools and ranking them while ignoring their resource shortfalls gives us an inaccurate portrait of our educational system and allows us to ignore societal issues that need addressing. The focus becomes not on actual learning, but rather on standardized test results. I know the two should be the same, but unfortunately we all know they are not. Ranking schools in this manner further exacerbates an inequitable education experience for children because the emphasis becomes getting off the list versus providing the best possible well-rounded educational experience for all children.

“Let’s look at Nashville, for example. Currently, we have 11 schools on the state’s priority list. At a recent school board meeting, the newest plan was unveiled to rescue these priority schools. One of the elements of the plan was that we were no longer going to call underperforming schools “priority schools.” We were now going to refer to them as “innovation schools” because “priority” conveyed a sense of failure and punishment. That’s fine, you can change the language – something the reform movement is particularly adept at – but the state will still refer to these schools as priority schools. And if they fail to improve, the state will reassign them to the state’s innovation zone, the Achievement School District, which has proven to be not so innovative after all. Their idea of innovation has more to do with growing the charter sector than with their stated goal of moving the bottom 5% of schools to the top 25%. Any local action is potentially neutered by the vulture on its perch waiting to pounce.

“So if an ASD-type program gets approved in your state, what follows is a plan of action that focuses on getting these schools to show growth in the only measurement that matters to the state, the standardized test. Want to take a class on a field trip to the state museum? Well, that’s great, but how’s that going to improve literacy scores? Want to teach a novel to your class? Yeah, that’s nice, but we have other strategies that’ll have a bigger impact on test scores and we’d prefer you utilize that time for them. Thank God there are still teachers willing to buck the system or it would be test prep all the time, which is basically already happening in a lot of places.”

Laura Chapman lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the national board of the NAACP held its annual meeting and approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools. The resolution was first proposed by the annual national convention of NAACP members from across the nation. Protestors arrived from Memphis to protest any moratorium on new charters.

Laura, a retired arts educators and an inveterate researcher, wrote about why people came from Memphis to Cincinnati:

“Cincinnati was the site of protests against the NAACP resolution to put a moratorium on charter schools. About 150 protesters, who wore coordinated t-shirts, were bussed to Cincinnati from the infamous “Achievement School District” (ASD) in Memphis, TN, specifically by a group called Memphis Lift.

“Who actually paid for the trip and why did protesters against the NAACP resolution come to Cincinnati from Memphis? I do not final have answers, but there can be no doubt that the charter industry is organized to protest against any cuts in charter expansion. Here are some things worth noting.

“Three persons from Memphis are on NAACP’s 63-member national board: Jesse H. Turner Jr., the organization’s treasurer and the president of Tri-State Bank of Memphis; Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel of Memphis; and Bishop William Graves of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
No doubt the pro-charter group, Memphis Lift, hoped to influence their vote.

“Memphis Lift was created in 2015 in order to organize black parents as vocal supporters of school choice. Memphis Lift has close ties to the wife of Chris Barbic, the founding superintendent of the scandalous Memphis “Achievement School District (ASD)”

“Why scandalous? An August 2016 audit of the ASD indicated that for school year 2016-2017, ASD added 4 more charter schools to its Memphis portfolio, for a total of 33 under the charter management organizations (CMOs) in charge of running day-to-day operations. This first ever audit revealed frauds on a grand scale in just one year. Among them, the liberal issuance of purchasing cards combined with records of purchases totaling $14,895 for which the cardholders did not obtain advanced approval as required by ASD policy. (p. 44). Six transactions were for a dental insurance premium, donation, coffee supplies, and “accrual calculations” totaling $131,637. Three travel claims were for one flight and CMO expenses, totaling $4,734 with no supporting documentation (p. 43). For more examples of this free spending, including luxury transportation and the bar charges at parties, see the report.

“Participants in Memphis Lift are not grassroots volunteers. They are employed-parents who received paid training channeled through Education Reform Now. Education Reform Now is supported by Democrats for Education Reform’s Political Action Committee. Chris Barbic’s wife, Natasha Kamrani, works as the Director of Democrats for Education Reform in Tennessee. She would certainly know about the training program and the political action funding channeled to it.

“How was the training financed? Memphis Lift is a fairly expensive operation. Initially, it was organized around 19 parent-employees who received $1800 for attending a 10-week training program. The training included help on public speaking, canvassing parents, and the use of a laptop, a perk given to participants in the program. The parent-employees, paid $12 to $15/hour, worked for about 25 hours per week. They were sent to canvas parents in Memphis neighborhoods where the public schools had been given the lowest performance rating by the state. In addition to providing these parents with information about the low performance of these schools, they discussed charters as an option for the parents. This paid “voice group” for parents successfully canvassed about 1,100 parents, and simultaneously created a roster of prospective contacts for marketing charter schools.
Who provided the training? The Parent Leadership and Advocacy Institute (PLAI). PLAI, the local affiliate of Democrats for Education Reform. Successive cohorts of participants in Memphis Lift were trained by Dr. Ian P. Buchanan, Deputy Director of the Parent Leadership Advocacy Institute/Democrats for Education Reform in Memphis TN.

“Dr. Buchanan’s work for Memphis Lift was aided by co-director Johnnie M. Hatten, a conspicuous supporter of charter expansion and member of the ASD Advisory Council, who ran for the state legislature in 2016 (as a Democrat), but lost the contest to Antonio Parkinson, a vocal critic of the state-run school turnaround district. Hatten’s campaign coffers were filled by charter-supporting groups: Tennessee Federation for Children PAC ($11, 501), along with Education Reform Now, Students First Tennessee, and Campaign for School Equity (each contributing $5,000). Support for charters in Memphis is clearly threatened, another reason for hoping to get help from the NAACP.

“Political connections still supply money to Memphis Lift. In January 2016, Memphis Lift sent 21 members to Washington, D.C. for Teach For America’s 25th anniversary celebration. “Natasha Kamrani, director of Tennessee’s branch of Democrats For Education Reform and wife of founding ASD superintendent Chris Barbic, introduced the group to attendees of the TFA reunion, stating she was lucky to work with them.”

“Follow the money to Teach for America and Democrats for Education Reform and to the many states across the country where “voice groups” like the parents in Memphis are paid for recruiting other parents to charter schools while carefully avoiding the truths about the rip-offs from charter operators.

“For a really eye-opening and well-documented report on Democrats for Education Reform and who is guiding its activities, go to this website

“And do look for the quote from one of the founders of DER, hedge fund manager, Whitney Tilson

Pennsylvania became an ATM for the charter industry under Republican Governor Tom Corbett. He is gone now, but the legislature remains indebted to the fat, happy charter owners. Many public school districts are on the brink of bankruptcy due to the rapacious charters that snare their students with deceptive advertising. Pennsylvania has more virtual charter schools than any other state, despite the fact that study after study (including one by CREDO, funded by the Daltons) has shown that virtual charters are educational disaster zones. Students who enroll in them don’t learn anything, but the virtual charter industry is rolling in dough. Two different virtual charter leaders have been indicted for theft in Pennsylvania; one admitted stealing millions of dollars, the other saw her trial dismissed because of age and infirmity but was indicted for theft of millions.

Into this land of struggling public schools and thriving charters comes a new legislative plot to privatize and monetize public school funding. It is called HB530. Under the (usual) guise of “reform,” the bill would open the door to the vaults that hold taxpayer money meant for children and welcome the charters to help themselves.

HB530 is a blank check for a rapacious, greedy industry.

Lawrence Feinberg of the Keystone State Education Coalition wrote this post, “20 Reasons to Vote No on PA HB530.”

Here are a few of his reasons:

Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend more than $1.4 billion on charter and cyber charter schools annually, in addition to funding the state’s traditional public schools. The current “rob from public school Peter to pay charter school Paul” system drains money from traditional public schools, forcing districts to cut programs and services for the students who remain. In 2011, the charter reimbursement line was eliminated from the state budget. It provided state funding to districts for the costs and financial exposure resulting from the addition of charter schools.

Legislators are now considering House Bill 530, which would bring much-needed reform to the charter school law that was written in 1997. The bill has several helpful provisions, but the harm that it does far outweighs the good. Here are 20 reasons that the legislature should vote against this measure.

#HB530 does not provide significant accountability to taxpayers for payments made to charter school entities.

#HB530 would create a Charter School Funding Commission that would consider establishing an independent state-level board to authorize charter school entities, bypassing any local decision-making by school boards and their communities.

#HB530 further limits the ability of communities to negotiate the role of charters locally. The decisions about how, when, and where to expand them should be made by those who have the information and expertise to do so in ways that improve education.

#HB530 is an entirely unwarranted intervention in the local governance of school districts. It would remove local control of tax dollars from Pennsylvania taxpayers and their elected school directors.

#HB530 sets no limits to money that charters can drain from local school districts, eliminating districts’ capability to plan and budget.

#HB530 is a vehicle for the Pennsylvania legislature to have local taxpayers pay for unlimited charter expansion.

#HB530 would let charter operators expand and add grades without any local input or authorization, regardless of performance.

#HB530 would let charters expand by enrolling students from outside of the district in which it is located.

If you want to save public education in Pennsylvania, contact your legislators now.

It is always hard to explain complicated issues to voters, especially when you don’t have much money.

Take Georgia, for example. Governor Nathan Deal wants to change the State Constitution to allow the state to take over low-scoring public schools and hand them over to charter operators. It hasn’t worked anywhere else, but no matter. The amendment is being sold as a way to help kids and improve schools, when it is a transfer of public schools to private management. It is privatization of public schools and squelching of democracy.

How do you reach voters?

Here is one way: Someone hired an airplane to fly over a University of Georgia football game flying a banner that said:

“No School Takeover. Vote NO on Amendment 1.”

In the battle over Question 2–whether to expand the number of charter schools by a dozen a year indefinitely into the future–sentiment is running against the proposal, despite the millions of dollars spent on television ads by the pro-charter groups. In western and central Massachusetts, according to this article, a majority of voters are against Question 2 once they hear from a volunteer about the fiscal impact on their public schools.

In Worcester, meanwhile, school officials want to see Question 2 defeated….

“To have the possibility of losing additional funding from our budget – it would be devastating,” said Molly O. McCullough, a member of the Worcester School Committee, which was among the first school boards in the state to officially oppose the ballot question in January.

Brian E. Allen, the Worcester schools’ chief financial and operations officer, said the public schools are already losing critical funding – $24.5 million this year – to the two existing charter schools in the city. If the district were to absorb all 2,000 of Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School and Seven Hills Charter Public School’s students back into its population, for example, the money it would get back would be enough not only to hire the necessary teachers to instruct those students but also an additional 150 teachers to use elsewhere in the system, he said.

On the flip side, if Worcester were to add 2,000 more charter school seats – the equivalent of two new schools – “now we’re talking about significant financial impacts,” he said, to a district that cut staff last year because of a budget deficit.

In essentially the same boat as Worcester, as far as the financial impact a charter school would have on them, the majority of other school districts in Central Massachusetts have also taken official stances against Question 2. Two other school systems besides Worcester – Fitchburg and Marlboro – already share their city with charter schools. Fitchburg and other districts have also seen recent proposals from local groups to start new ones.

As school boards consider the fiscal impact of the existing public schools, they take a stand against the resolution.

What all this demonstrates is the utter callousness of the pro-charter advocates. Massachusetts has the most successful public school system in the state, yet “reformer-billionaires” think it should be disrupted. Worcester, as the article points out, had a third charter school that lasted only three years. What is the logic of disrupting and defunding the nation’s most successful state public school system by adding a dozen new transient schools every year and causing budget cuts to the public schools that remain?

The number of towns saying NO to Question 2 now exceeds 200 in Massachusetts.

Out-of-state billionaires have poured $20 million into the campaign to pass Question 2, which would cause budget cuts to the state’s public schools so that the charter industry could grow by 12 a year indefinitely.

School districts say no.

Mayor Walsh of Boston says no.

Senator Elizabeth Warren says no.

Save your schools: Vote NO.

I recently posted Carol Burris’s analysis of a court decision in California that blocked the sneaky expansion of charters into districts outside the one where they were authorized; the new charters called themselves “resource centers” and were infiltrating districts that did not want them.

Here is a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune on the same decision.

California’s booming satellite charter school industry that has persevered through lawsuits, scandals and turf wars suffered a blow this past week when a state appellate court ruled hundreds of the campuses are illegally operating outside their districts.

At issue now is how 150,000 California students — including 25,000 in San Diego County — will continue their education. The court decision also puts at stake millions of dollars in revenue generated by the charters for privately run organizations.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision in a lawsuit filed by the Anderson Union High School District near Redding claiming the Shasta Secondary Home School (now Shasta Charter Academy) illegally opened satellite charter campus, which are officially called resource centers, in its jurisdiction.

Filed Monday and set to go into effect Nov. 16, the appellate decision reverses the lower court ruling, which sided with the charter that was authorized by the nearby Shasta Union High School District. The lower court said it was legal to operate a resource center, as such schools are officially called, in the neighboring Anderson district to give its independent-study students who live there a chance to use computers, receive tutoring and work on assignments in a classroom setting.

Of the state’s 1,200 charter schools, 275 are “resource centers,” many of them storefronts where students show up from time to time. That means that unless this decision is overturned by the state’s Supreme Court, more than 20% of California’s charter schools will cease to operate or seek some other option to survive.

San Diego public schools will welcome the return of the students in these “non-classroom-based” charters:

Andra Donovan, general counsel for the San Diego Unified School District, offers another option: Returning to district and its expanded catalog of independent-study programs.

San Diego Unified “is fully prepared and has sufficient capacity to absorb those students currently attending these charter schools, with fully robust, higher quality independent study and online learning programs as well as traditional and blended programs,” Donovan said. “Our graduation rate far exceeds that of many of these them and our district provides integrated support not available from these charters.”

These “resource centers” are locations intended to coordinate online instruction, which has repeatedly been shown to be a farce, educationally, an easy way to collect credits without getting an education.

Some districts opened resource centers because it was easy money.

Online instruction offers flexibility to students who want an alternative to traditional schools, and big revenue to charter organizations and authorizers. Districts that approve the charters receive up to 3 percent of their revenue for oversight and other services.

The Julian Union district opened its first charter in 1999, and now enrolls some 4,000 students in its charter resource centers across the region. Fewer then 400 local students attend Julian’s district schools.

The tiny rural two-campus district earned nearly $800,000 in revenue from its Julian and Diego Valley charters in the 2014-15 year, when its total revenue was $6.2 million.

Former Julian Superintendent Kevin Ogden helped establish the district’s first charter school, which took in $18 million in revenue last year, and operates 14 programs in eleven facilities.

Ogden helped usher in Diego Valley and Harbor Springs charters, both of which operate resource centers in other districts through independent study programs that offer as much as four days a week of classroom instruction or as little as a few teacher meetings. The Grossmont lawsuit targets Diego Valley.

Ogden retired about two years ago to take a top job at the Lancaster-based Learn4Life, an organization that includes Diego Valley, its Diego Plus Education Corporation and other charters throughout the state.

Following Julian’s lead, dozens of far-flung charters and resource centers have been authorized by other small East County districts, including some that acknowledged the arrangements were forged mostly for the money.

Does anyone seriously believe that the students who receive diplomas from these sham institutions are getting a high-quality education? Is this the way the U.S. will compete in the global economy? Hey, reformers, this is a farce.