Archives for category: Education Reform

I posted that Beto O’Rourke would have a discussion about Educatuon in Lubbock, Texas, tomorrow evening. This is true.

But the meeting will be in-person, NOT ON ZOOM.

If the meeting is recorded, I will post it here.

Former Governor Jim Hunt, a Democrat, is one of the most respected figures in North Carolina on the subject of education. As teacher Justin Parmenter explains in this post, Governor Hunt was a true education reformer who cared about students, teachers, and public schools.

Parmenter writes:

Among others, those initiatives include beginning the Smart Start Pre-K program, putting a full-time teaching assistant in every grade 1-3 classroom, establishing the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and creating the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (as a personal aside I’d like to add that I am grateful and proud to have been a National Board Certified Teacher since 2006).

Under Hunt’s leadership, teacher pay in North Carolina rose to 19th nationwide, coming within about $2000 of the national average during the 2001-02 school year. The state currently ranks 39th.

Since 2010, North Carolina has been controlled by Tea Party zealots in the legislature, who devoutly believe in charters and vouchers.

Many educators were surprised when Governor Hunt agreed to join a panel that was planning to change the compensation of teachers and tie it to test scores. Perhaps Governor Hunt thought he could steer the group towards sensible solutions, like raising teacher pay to the national average.

But he announced he was quitting the coalition. He must have realized that the state commissioner and her minions were wedded to merit pay.

Parmenter writes:

Governor Jim Hunt has withdrawn as honorary co-chair of the UpliftEd Coalition, a group which will promote a controversial plan to do away with experience-based teacher compensation and replace it with a system of merit pay.

The Pathways to Excellence proposal, currently being worked on by the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC), has proven deeply unpopular with North Carolina educators since it became public earlier this year.

Governor Hunt called on the coalition to draw upon the knowledge of teachers and listen to them.

That’s a novel idea! They are probably listening to the business community, which always complains that teachers are overpaid.

I would recommend that they read my book Reign of Error, in which I thoroughly debunk merit pay. It has been tried again and again for a century, and it has never worked. It’s one of those zombie ideas that never works and never dies.

Dr. Charles Foster Johnson is hosting a conversation with Beto O’Rourke in Lubbock, Texas, on Zoom this Thursday.

4:30-6:00 pm CDT (central time).

They will discuss the future of public education in Texas.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-conversation-about-public-education-with-beto-orourke-tickets-384095880117

The event is free.

A few months ago, Christopher Rufo gave a speech at Hillsdale College that he called “Laying Siege to the Institutions.” I listened and was appalled by his claim that society was in desperate trouble because of the ascendance of 1960’s radicals, that public schools were the root of all evil, that such public schools needed to be replaced by unfettered school choice, and that what we need is to return to the good old days of 1776.

Peter Greene listened to Rufo’s immortal words, and he gave them a close reading. He concluded that Rufo wants to eliminate public schools, oust the radicals who took over all the important institutions, and take charge of them himself with his allies.

Greene ends his piece as follows:

The short form of all this is that radicals from 1968 gave up the violent overthrow of the US and–somehow–a couple dozen of them managed to take over every single institution in the country as well as transforming from scruffy radicals into elites. Rather than chase them out, we should trash the institutions they poisoned and start over, with freedom-loving ordinary people. 

So, several thoughts.

First, why settle on 1968 for your big year, as if you weren’t repeating themes from 1950s McCarthyism or 1930s Red Scares or anarchism freakouts from earlier still. Is your audience conservative Boomers who always hated those long-haired hippy commie weirdos? 

There’s a lot of internal inconsistency here. Some serves a narrative purpose; those shadowy elite ideologues who took over the country need to be both super-powerful (because we need to be justified in Getting Them and also, that beautiful victim card) and a tiny group (there’s more of us Real Americans than them). 

Other inconsistencies aren’t really inconsistencies, but tells. Your side is ideologues; my side has values. When you use the “levers of power” you are oppressive and evil, but when we get our hands on them, we will use them to enforce our will. That is only inconsistent if you think some sort of principle should be involved here, but the only principle involved is “People like me should be empowered to enforce our will on others, because our will is righteous true and serves us.” Break corporations and make them support your view. Fund only the institutions that say what you agree with.  The answer to the oft asked question, “Why is that wrong when I do it but right when you do it” will always be “Because we are right and you are wrong.” 

Or, as Frank Wilhoit puts it:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

Rufo doesn’t represent any sort of conservatism I recognize, but that’s the mask they’re wearing these days. 

The other thing striking about Rufo is how overtly and deliberately political he is (Politics is “the business of getting power and privilege without possessing merit” –P. J. O’Rourke). All of this is about using words and forming phrases to leverage and accumulate power, taking positions and maneuvering around your opponent. The people on the other side are not actual human beings; they have no good intentions, no legitimate concerns. In fact, none of this has to do with people with actual honest concerns or differences. Rufo doesn’t invoke ordinary people with some sense of who they are and what they want and need, but because invoking them gives an argument some extra weight and helps build a winning frame. 

Certainly there’s no thought about a institution-free society. Rufo talks as if we just cut all the supports and let everyone be free, as if that wouldn’t result in a society in which people were only as free as their bank accounts allowed them to be. Rufo and his crowd would be plenty free.

There’s certainly no concern about the larger effects of these tactics. What happens, for instance, in a society where trust has been systematically crushed and undermined? Nothing good, I’m betting, but Rufo’s perfectly happy to go there, and increasingly others are willing to go there with him (here’s Laura Ingraham calling for an end to public education).

I’ve sparred and chatted with plenty of folks on the other sides of these issues over the years. Over the last decade they have become even less likely to demonize opponents, more likely to see nuance and issues on all sides, even when they disagree. They have been mostly conservatives, with a conservative’s natural tendency to want to preserve things. Maybe I’ve been naive to think that some of them were never going to go this far, even as I’ve understood that much of them have been pointing in this direction, and many of the folks financing the movement wanted exactly this. But I wonder what they think privately of this new slash and burn addition to the crew.

Rufo represents an extreme version of ideas that have long been around, like the idea that public education is just a scam so that the teachers union can get teachers jobs thereby resulting in dues that fill the coffers of the unions which are just fronts for the Democratic party. Or the idea that if government went away (and stopped making me pay taxes to support Those People) then we would all live in a happy paradise of freedom. Or that a bunch of stuff (under the umbrella of anything from evolution to segregation to CRT) is being taught to undermine my view of the world and make my kids think stuff I disagree with. 

Like his buddy DeSantis, Rufo is not so much about conservatism as he is about authoritarianism, about christianist-fueled control or replacement of all institutions (and do notice–Rufo does not distinguish between public institutions and private corporations–he wants to run them all). This is aggressive, smart authoritarianism that only really has one question to ask before it either lifts you up or smashed you– are you on their side? Trumpsim was just some throat-clearing for these folks; soon I’m afraid they’ll be in fuvoice. 

I recommend that you read Greene’s piece in full.

I will be a participant in a summer school program on Critical Race Theory. You are invited to sign up. I am part of the panel on July 20.

Greetings Friends and Colleagues, 

The African American Policy Forum is so excited to be Teaching Truth to Power this year at Critical Race Theory Summer School! It is crucial that we prepare racial justice advocates to defend the right to teach truth in classrooms. This powerful and urgent program runs July 18 to July 22, 2022. 

Seats are limited, so register here today! Events will be held daily between 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET throughout the week. Be sure to sign up for our listserv so that you don’t miss any updates. 

CRT Summer School 2022 will include a variety of plenaries, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities aimed to inform, activate, and inspire. We’re inviting parents, educators, students, social workers, legal practitioners, media professionals and concerned community members from all walks of life, because there is something for anyone to learn from the sheer breadth of options available this year! 

Daily Plenary Sessions

July 18 – Everyday CRT: A Commonsense Framework for Racial Liberation

July 19 – Public Schools, Private Agendas: How the Assault on Racial Justice Undermines Education

July 20 – Strange Bedfellows: The Left/Right Convergence that Enabled the Normalization of White Nationalism

July 21 – Define, Do Not Defend: How to Resist the Disinformation Campaign Against CRT

July 22 – Transforming a Moment to a Movement: Building A New Coalition to Secure our Multiracial Democracy

Discounts and Purchase Orders

Group sales (registration in increments of ten and five) are available and yield a 25% discount. For Purchase Orders please contact crt@aapf.org for more information.

Individual recipients of this email are eligible for a 10% discount using the following code during check-out: TSICAF-992000-IWANJ.

Full and partial scholarships are available. For more information visit our website: www.aapf.org/crtsummerschool.

On Demand Content

Great news! This year, all CRT Summer School content will be available to all registrants after the close of the event until Labor Day. You can watch anything you missed or revisit your favorites to ensure that you are a prepared racial justice advocate ready to defend the right to teach truth in schools.

We hope to see you at CRT-SS 2022! Please also share this email with your network – friends, colleagues, and constituents.

Onward,

African American Policy Forum

#TruthBeTold

As a high school teacher in Louisiana, Mercedes Schneider has followed John White’s meteoric career with interest. He started in education as part of Teach for America, then gained a leadership role in TFA. Vaulted up the ladder of success working for Joel Klein’s administration in New York City. Quickly was named Superintendent of Schools in all-charter New Orleans. And in a flash, he was State Superintendent of Education in Louisiana. He insisted he was a “teacher at heart.” But Mercedes now finds that he is selling Common-Core aligned Eureka Math.

She writes:

White is an education opportunist at heart. Prior to his exit as Louisiana state superintendent, White started a nonprofit, Propel America, with fellow TFA alum Paymon Rouhanifard, and while still Louisiana superintendent, contracted with two Louisiana districts to pilot his product and apparently blindsiding then-state board president, Gary Jones, with the decision...

The 2018-19 school year was White’s last full school year as state superintendent. On January 08, 2020, White announced his resignation effective March 11, 2020.

Even as he touted his accomplishments, White, who was leaving mid-school-year, included no mention of a subsequent professional destination.

According to his LinkedIn bio, the Waltons picked up the tab for him, providing income for his as a Walton Family Foundation “fellow” from April 2020 to the present (July 2022).

Of course, White also had his own consulting firm, Watershed Advisors, which provides a place for a number of his former-La.-Dept.-of-Ed. cronies to land (or at least to provide indispensable resume decor to make the floundering professional seem busy climbing some ladder).

White also mentions being a member of the education advisory council to flagship in incompetence at a price, consulting firm, Alvarez and Marsal. Lots of background here. Alvarez and Marsal have their controversial fingerprints on Louisiana, New York, St. Louis, Montana, Rhode Island, and DC….

In DC, Alvarez and Marsal was hired to investigate cheating under then-chancellor (and former TFAer) Michelle Rhee, the March 08, 2012, Washington Post observes, “It is not known how much experience Alvarez and Marsal has in test security.” None. But that is how education opportunism works– just get the contract, charge the fees, offer something (or nothing, or chaos), then leave.

Education opportunism. And the findest of education opportunists, John White, is on this opportunistic business’ education advisory counsel. Perfect resume dressing.

Ahh, but “teacher at heart” White has found his place, in curriculum sales for Common-Core-associated Great Minds.

A new study by University of Kentucky Dean Julian Vasquez. Heilig and Professor David G. Martinez demonstrates the inequity built into school funding., to the disadvantages of the poorest communities.

A newly published analysis of how dollars are distributed to schools in the U.S. posits that funding allocation models continue to disadvantage those in low-income communities, despite long-standing evidence that equitable funding is critical to students’ capacity to learn and achieve.

The article, authored by University of Kentucky College of Education Dean Julian Vasquez Heilig, Ph.D., and Davíd G. Martínez, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, appears in the latest issue of the Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality.

Due to the reliance on local property values to fund schools, property poor districts are prevented from increasing or equalizing school revenue to the level of wealthier districts. This poverty is unequally distributed across racial and ethnic backgrounds. Recent peer-reviewed research has shown that in gentrifying urban communities, as the proportional intensity of white students increases in schools, so do the resulting resources and demands for schools, the authors write.

“Education is a human right and a civil right, but our school finance policies are failing to treat it as such,” Martínez said. “Access to quality education is necessary for communities to thrive. When there are major educational disparities that exist between communities, it impacts everyone. This is demonstrably true if those educational disparities are predicated on community wealth, or race and ethnicity. Policy makers must do more to understand the history of school finance disparity in their community, and take steps to ameliorate its impact.”

Martínez and Vasquez Heilig say in their analysis that, despite countless attempts to reform school finance policy, the U.S. has historically been unable to improve school funding inequity and injustice. Without creating a more equitable system, resolving challenges for marginalized students will continue to be difficult.

“We looked at numerous studies showing increases in funding resulted in greater academic success for marginalized students. For instance, when more resources were put into majority LatinX urban schools, reading and math achievements increased,” Vasquez Heilig said. “Quite simply, money does matter and investing in education early and often matters in the everyday life of a student.”

The authors suggest federal policymakers adopt a framework known as Opportunity to Learn that would put in place a set of minimum standards for equitable learning in U.S. schools. These standards would include well-trained and certified teachers and administrators, timely curriculum and texts, up-to-date facilities and wrap-around services to support neuro-divergent learners and the health, nutrition, housing and family wellness of students. As a civil right, the authors argue for complete and differentiated levels of service for every student and funding that allows for the provision of those services.

After these standards for learning are set, it would enable state policymakers to raise revenue to proper levels of fiscal support for meeting the standards. The authors say this model deviates from past school reform and finance models that have focused on test scores and the need for increased student achievement. They, instead, support a model where success is determined by how policymakers are supporting high-quality educational access and availability in every community, promoting alternatives to the historical resource disparity that has oppressed BIPOC students and families.

“Ultimately, as a civil right, we need to support students through the P-20 pipeline, which includes high school completion and earnings later in life, with the ultimate goal of reducing adult poverty,” Vasquez Heilig said.

Make no mistake: the changes to the federal Charter Schools Program a few days ago was a big win for supporters of public schools and a major defeat for the charter lobby, led by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The Network for Public Education was proud to lead the fight to reform the Charter Schools Program, which started in 1994 as a tiny program to help jumpstart new charters but turned into a slush fund to pump federal money into giant charter chains like KIPP, IDEA, and Success Academy, all of which are very well funded by their billionaire board members and friends.

The charter lobby, overflowing with cash, bought ads on major television programs to fight the Department’s effort to regulate the federal funding of charters, especially the proposed exclusion of for-profit charter operators. The Network for Public Education did not have millions or even hundreds of thousands to lobby on behalf of public schools. It did not buy any TV or radio time. NPE is funded by the 350,000 friends who contribute small amounts of money to fight privatization. Contrary to the claims of the charter lobby, NPE is not funded by the teachers’ unions. It is funded by parents, teachers, principals, and other citizens who don’t want to lose their public schools.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, has worked tirelessly to persuade the U.S. Department of Education and members of Congress to require accountability and set rules for the federal Charter Schools Program. She wrote numerous reports, based on government data, to demonstrate the need for oversight. The program receives $440 million a year with no scrutiny, and its waste, fraud, and abuse are legion. Unlike the charter lobby, NPE has a small staff. Carol is the only full-time employee. Her hard work paid off. Despite the millions of dollars spent by the charter lobby to keep the federal dollars flowing without accountability, transparency or oversight, the Department ignored them.

Carol Burris explained the new regulations in a post on Valerie Strauss’s blog “The Answer Sheet” at The Washington Post.

Strauss begins:

The Biden administration is moving to overhaul the federal Charter School Program with new rules finalized last week that make it harder for for-profit organizations to win taxpayer money and require greater transparency and accountability for grant applicants.

The program has awarded billions of dollars in grants over the past several decades for the expansion or opening of charters, which are publicly funded but privately operated, often with little or no public oversight. President Biden said during the 2020 election campaign that he wanted to end federal funding for for-profit charter schools, but the final regulations don’t go that far.

Charter school supporters strongly objected to a draft set of rules released earlier this year, saying they seemed intended to kill the program outright, which the Education Department denied. Nina Rees, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said in a statement that the final regulations appear to be “less harmful than the original proposal,” but added that more analysis of the details was needed.

Critics of the federal Charter School Program said both the draft set of regulation changes and the final versions were important moves to stop waste and fraud in the federal program and provide more transparency to the operation of charters.

Charter advocates say these schools offer necessary choices to families that want alternatives to troubled schools in traditional public school districts. Critics say charter schools drain funding from public school districts that educate the vast majority of children in the United States, and are part of a movement to privatize public education.

The Network for Public Education, an advocacy organization that opposes charter schools, has published several reports since 2019 on the federal program, revealing the waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on charter schools that did not open or were shut down. The reports also showed that the Education Department did not adequately monitor federal grants to these schools. You can read about two of those reports here and here. A third report details how many for-profit management companies evade state laws banning for-profit charters.

This post analyzes the final rules that the Education Department released last week — though more details are yet to come. The following was written by Carol Burris, an award-winning New York school principal who is now executive director of the Network for Public Education and who wrote or co-wrote the reports mentioned above. Burris has written extensively about charter schools and other school reform efforts for more than a decade on The Answer Sheet.

By Carol Burris

Last week, efforts to clean up the wasteful federal Charter School Program (CSP) made remarkable progress. First, the fiscal year 2023 House Appropriations bill report not only made cuts to the CSP program budget, it demanded improvements. Then the day after the passage of the bill by the House Appropriations Committee, the long-awaited final regulations for the Charter School Program were published by the Education Department. Although a few concessions were made to the charter lobby, nearly all proposed regulations remained intact from a draft version released earlier this year.

Let’s start with the fiscal year 2023 House Appropriations bill. It reduced the Charter School Program budget by $40 million from President Biden’s request to keep funding for next year the same as this, at $440 million. The bill also called on Congress and the U.S. Education Department to phase out for-profit management organizations, and encouraged further investigations and reforms. In short, it supported the proposed CSP regulations.

During a June 30 hearing on the bill, two amendments — the first to defund the Department of Education’s regulation efforts and the second to restore the $40 million budget cut — were defeated in committee votes.

When Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) offered his amendment to kill the new regulations by defunding them, (watch beginning at 3:20:37), Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairman of the committee, expressed her “strong opposition.” She accused the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools of “peddling un-credible exaggerations” and “misrepresentations” to defeat what she characterized as modest reforms. She further stated that they had been “willing to take desperate measures to block accountability and transparency” to protect for-profit education management organizations. She voiced her strong support for reform of the CSP to address long-standing concerns. Moolenaar’s amendment was defeated 32 to 22.

The following day, on July 1, the department held an informational briefing on the final new regulations, the priorities, and the assurances applicants must provide to secure a grant from the Charter School Program (CSP). Following the meeting, three documents were posted here. The first describes the submitted comments and the department’s response to them as well as the new requirements for the three grant programs within the overall CSP (SE, or State Entity; CMO, or charter management organization; and Developer, or charter school developers).

The department received 26,580 comments on the proposed regulations, most of which were generated from letter-writing campaigns. Of all of the comments, 5,770 were unique. According to the department, “the majority [of comments] expressed general support for the regulations and the priorities.”

For those who have long advocated for overhauling the CSP program, here are the significant gains.

Schools managed by for-profits will have a difficult time securing CSP grants and, in some cases, will be excluded from funding.

If an applicant has or will have a contract with a for-profit management company (or a “nonprofit management organization operated by or on behalf of a for-profit entity”), they must provide extensive information, including a copy or description of the contract, comprehensive leadership personnel reporting and the identification of possible related party transactions. Real estate contracts must be reported, and “evergreen contracts” in which there is automatic contract renewal are prohibited. The school cannot share legal, accounting or auditing services with the for-profit. The state entity that awards the grant must publish the for-profit management contract between the awardee and the school.

The final regulations also include the reporting and exposure of the for-profit’s related entities. The Network for Public Education recommended the addition of “related entities” in its comments to the department. Our report, “Chartered for Profit,” explains how for-profit owners create separate corporations with different names to mask the complete control of the for-profit over operations of the school.

Finally, the applicant must assure that “the [for-profit] management company does not exercise full or substantial control over the charter school,” thereby barring any charter school operated by a for-profit with a “sweeps contract” from obtaining CSP funds.

There will be greater transparency and accountability for charter schools, State Entities, and CMOs that apply for grants.

This is probably the most underreported win for those who support charter school reform.

Transparency gains include:

  • An assurance that the grantee holds a public hearing on the proposed or expanded charter school. These hearings must be well advertised and include information on how the school will increase diversity and not promote segregation. Schools are obligated to reach out to the community to encourage attendance and then provide a summary of the hearing as part of the application. These public hearings are required of direct grantees and subgrantees — both SE and CMO.
  • The publication of for-profit management contracts.
  • The publication of the names of awardee schools and their peer-reviewed applications by states and CMOs.
  • A requirement that the school publish information for prospective parents, including fees, uniform requirements, disciplinary practices, transportation plans, and whether the school participates in the national free or reduced-price lunch program.

Accountability gains include:

  • More substantial supervision by state entities of the schools that are awarded grants, including in-depth descriptions of how they will review applications, the peer review process they will use, and how they will select grantees for in-depth monitoring.
  • Restrictions regarding the spending of grants by unauthorized schools. Charter schools not yet approved by an authorizer will be eligible to use planning grant funds; however, they cannot dip into any implementation funds until they are approved and have secured a facility. This new regulation will limit, though not prevent, all funding that goes to charter schools that never open.

Regulations to stop White-flight charters from receiving CSP funding and ensure the charter is needed in the community.

The final regulations are good, but not as strong as initially proposed.

One of the more controversial aspects of the new regulations was the need for the school to conduct a community impact analysis. The charter lobby focused on one example by which a school could show need (district over-enrollment) and used it as a rallying cry to garner opposition to the regulations. In the new regulations, the department clarifies that there are other ways to demonstrate need, including wait lists and offering a unique program. It also eliminated the need for the applicant to provide a district enrollment projection.

The community impact analysis is now called a needs analysis. That analysis must include evidence of community desire for the school; documentation of the school’s enrollment projection and how it was derived; a comparison of the demographics of the school with the area where the students are likely to be drawn; the projected impact of the school on racial and socio-economic district diversity; and an assurance that the school would not “hamper, delay or negatively affect” district desegregation efforts. Applicants would also have to submit their plan to ensure that the charter school does not increase racial segregation and isolation in the school district from which the charter would draw its students.

The department went to great pains to reassure applicants that schools in racially isolated districts would not need to show diversity (this straw man argument had been used by the charter lobby and even some editorial boards to fight the regulations, although the original rules had made that clear). Those schools that are unlikely to be diverse due to the school’s special mission would also have to submit an explanation.

Still, there are some concerns about unintended consequences of the regulations.

With the additional caveat regarding “special mission,” the department is trying to preserve grants to schools that are themed to promote, for example, Native American culture in an area where Native American students are a minority population in the district. That is understandable.

However, White-flight charter schools could skirt the regulation by arguing that their mission is to provide a Eurocentric, classical curriculum.

For example, charter schools opened by Hillsdale College — a small Christian college in Michigan that promotes a “classical” curriculum — are disproportionately White. These schools could claim that their mission appeals to students with European backgrounds and that the strong “anti-CRT” message in their “1776 curriculum” does not appeal to Black families. Although Hillsdale College does not take federal funds, Hillsdale charter schools do. We have identified nearly $7 million awarded to Hillsdale member charter schools up to April 2021. Newer schools have likely secured CSP grants as well.

Priority 2 — which encouraged charter/public school cooperation — was retained but categorized as “invitational” for the 2022 cycle.

The second straw man argument the National Alliance for Public Charters used to fuel their #backoff campaign on the regulations was the claim that charter/public school district cooperative projects were required. They were not. They were a priority, and priorities can be mandated, competitive (assigned a few points), or invitational (looked up favorably but no point value).

As I explained here, it is rare for a priority to be mandated. For example, of the six priorities for the 2022 State Entities grants, only one is required, which is that authorizers use best practices. The department now makes it clear that it is unlikely that charter/district cooperative activity will ever be a mandated priority while leaving the door open to it becoming a competitive priority after the 2022 award cycle.

All regulations, priorities and assurances go into effect for this 2022 grant cycle with one exception: Developer grant applicants, a small program in which individual schools apply, do not have to submit a needs analysis in 2022 only. That is because applications are due shortly.

Summary

Since 2019 when the Network for Public Education issued its reports on the federal Charter School Program, the program has come under increased congressional scrutiny. We have followed up by submitting letters to the department, often co-signed by other groups, demanding reform and exposing abuses of the program.

These new regulations are an essential first step in making sure that fewer tax dollars go to schools that never open, schools that quickly close, and for-profit operators. Unscrupulous individuals who used the program for their enrichment will find it more difficult to do so. State Entities that have pushed money out the door will now be forced to provide more oversight and supervision. And so they should. State Entities get 10 percent of every grant, representing millions of federal dollars, to use for such supervision.

We do not doubt that some applicants will still provide false information, as we found time and time again, but now as all peer-reviewed applications go online, groups such as ours will serve as watchdogs and report falsehoods and misrepresentations to the Office of the Inspector General.

And for all of the charter schools that are fronts for for-profit organizations, the Education Department just put a big sign on the door that says “you need not apply.”

As readers of this blog know, the Network for Public Education has strongly supported reform of the federal Charter Schools Program, which got its start in 1994 to help mom-and-pop start-up charters. Led by Carol Burris, executive director of NPE, we released two reports showing that the CSP program had wasted nearly a billion dollars, that it funded white flight academies, that it was marred by waste, fraud, and abuse, and that it was a major funder for charter chains.

Biden’s Department of Education issued draft regulations to reform CSP, and the charter lobby spent millions pushing back against any reforms.

The charter lobby lost!

Jan Resseger reports the good news: the U.S. Department of Education stood its ground.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, celebrates the successful effort to reform the federal Charter Schools Program, despite the multi-million dollar campaign of the charter lobby.

Dear Friends,

Since 2019, the Network for Public Education has worked to stop the waste, profiteering, and fraud in the federal Charter Schools Program. Our two reports, Asleep at the Wheel I and II, caught the attention of the press and members of Congress. We secured allies in our fight as we fought the funding of segregation academies in North Carolina. We met with Congressional staff members and the Department itself. And when the draft regulations came out, we worked nonstop for weeks to write our comments, explain the proposed regulations to others, provide tailored model comments, and work with our allies to push the regulations over the finish line.

On July 1, those efforts paid off.

The Department received 26,580 comments on the proposed regulations, most of which were generated from “letter-writing campaigns.” Of all of the comments, 5,770 were unique. According to the Department, “the majority [of comments] expressed general support for the regulations and the priorities.” We and our allies did our job.

Here are the significant gains.

The Department will make it difficult or impossible for charters run by for-profits to get grants.

If an applicant has or will have a contract with a for-profit management company (or a “nonprofit management organization operated by or on behalf of a for-profit entity” like Academica), they must provide extensive information, including a copy or description of the contract, personnel reporting, possible related party transactions and real estate contracts. The State Entity that awards the grant must publish the for-profit management contract between the awardee and the school.

Most importantly, the applicant must assure that “the [for-profit] management company does not exercise full or substantial control over the charter school,” thereby barring any charter school operated by a for-profit with a “sweeps contract” from obtaining CSP funds.

There will be greater transparency and accountability for charter schools, state entities, and CMOs that apply for grants.

Transparency gains include public hearings, comparative demographic information, the name of all awardee schools, and their peer-reviewed applications. Schools must publish information on their websites that includes fees, uniforms, transportation plans, and if they provide free lunch.

Accountability gains include better supervision by State Entities of the schools awarded grants, including in-depth descriptions of how they will review applications, the peer review process they will use, and how they will select grantees for in-depth monitoring. There are new restrictions on how unauthorized schools can receive funds.

Regulations to stop white-flight charters from receiving CSP funding and ensure the charter is needed in the community.

The final regulations are good, but not as strong as initially proposed. The community impact analysis is now called a needs analysis. That analysis must include: evidence of community desire for the school; the school’s enrollment projection; a comparison of the demographics of the school with the area where the students are likely to be drawn; the projected impact of the school on racial and socio-economic district diversity and an assurance that the school will not undermine local desegregation efforts. There are exceptions for theme schools and schools in racially isolated neighborhoods.

Making progress on holding charters accountable and reducing waste, fraud, and profiteering is an extraordinarily difficult task. The goal of the charter lobby is to create as many charters as possible, make schools a marketplace, and eventually overtake our democratically governed schools. We have a long way to go in stopping that. But these regulations are an important first step.

For an in-depth analysis, read my piece in The Washington Post Answer Sheet here.

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