Archives for category: Funding

Three scholars have recently published a very informative book about the history of education in New Orleans. The authors tell this story by scrutinizing one very important elementary school in the city, the one that was first to be desegregated with one black student in 1960. The book is titled William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resiliency, and Recovery in New Orleans (Peter Lang). The authors are Connie L. Schaffer, Meg White, and Martha Graham Viator.

This is the school that enrolled 6-year-old Ruby Bridges in November 1960. Her entry to the school each day, a tiny little girl accompanied by federal agents, was met with howling, angry white parents. Her admission to an all-white school in New Orleans was a landmark in the fight to implement the Brown v. Board decision of 1954. It was immortalized by Norman Rockwell in a famous painting called The Problem We All Live With.

The authors set the stage for their history by pointing out that the Reconstruction-era constitution of Louisiana forbade racially segregated schools. In the early 1870s, about one-third of the public schools in New Orleans were racially integrated. Some schools had racially integrated teaching staffs. School board members were both white and black. When Reconstruction ended, rigid racial segregation and white supremacy were restored.

The William Frantz Public School opened in 1938 as a school for white children. It occupied almost a full city block.It was one of the few schools built during the Depression. It was built to accommodate 570 children. The authors demonstrate the vast inequality between white schools and black schools. Not far away was a school for black children of elementary age. Not only were black schools overcrowded, but black neighborhoods had problems with poorly maintained sewers, streets, sidewalks, gas and water lines, and structurally unsound buildings. Black schools were dilapidated, students shared desks, and class sizes were often in excess of 60 children to one teacher. Black students had fewer instructional hours than white students, due to overcrowding. White teachers were paid more than black teachers.

Black citizens of New Orleans were outraged by these conditions but they were politically powerless. The white power structure did not care about the education of black children.

Then came the Brown decision of 1954, which declared the policy of “separate but equal” to be unjust. The federal courts moved slowly to implement desegregation, but eventually they began to enforce it. The federal district judge who took charge of desegregation in New Orleans was J. Shelley Wright, a graduate of the city’s white schools. He determined to implement the Brown decision, despite the opposition of the Governor, the Legislature, the Mayor, and prominent white citizens of the city, as well as White Citizens Councils.

In 1958, the Louisiana legislature passed several measures to weaken desegregation efforts including laws allowing the governor to close any school that desegregated, providing state funds to any students seeking to leave the traditional public schools, and granting the state sweeping power to control all schools.

Their well-written history brings the reader to the present, to the all-charter model that privatizers hold up as an exemplar for every urban district troubled by low test scores and white flight.

The section of the book that I found most interesting was their detailed account of the white reaction to the prospect of school integration, despite the fact that the black students who applied to attend white schools were carefully screened for their academic potential and their behavior. Ruby Bridges was the one and only student chosen to start desegregation. Crowds gathered every morning to spit and scream. They harassed not only Ruby, with her federal protection, but any white student who dared to enter the school. Their blockade eventually forced whites to abandon the William Franz Public School. A few persisted, but little Ruby never met them. She was assigned to a classroom with no other students and one teacher.

The whites who tried to stay in the school were subject to threats of violence. Some lost their jobs, as did Ruby’s father. They feared for their lives. The hatred for blacks by whites was explosive. The portrayal of malignant racism is searing.

A relatively small number of whites tried to calm the situation. One such group was called Save Our Schools. They reached out to the white parents of the school, trying to bring peace and reconciliation.

In perhaps the most disturbing response to an SOS mailing, a WFPS parent who had received a letter from SOS returned the letter smeared with feces. A handwritten comment on the letter stated the parent would rather have ignorant children then to send them to a “nigger school.”

The mob won. By the middle of the school year, fewer than 10 white students remained in the school, and they too needed protection. By 1993, not one white student attended the school.

As the tumult continued after Ruby’s admission, prominent whites funded private schools so that white students could escape the specter of desegregation. The Legislature passed laws to support the resistance to desegregation and to give vouchers to whites fleeing the public schools and to underwrite the private academies where racist white students enrolled.

When the battle over desegregation began, New Orleans schools enrolled a white majority. Racism led to white flight, and before long the school district was overwhelmingly black, as was the city.

The authors detail the problems of the district. Not only was it segregated and underfunded, but its leadership was unstable. The management was frequently incompetent and corrupt. Its accounting department was a mess. So was Human Resources. Teachers were not paid on time. The management was woeful. The state wanted to take control of the district before Hurricane Katrina. Three months before the disastrous hurricane, the state leaned on the district to hire a corporate restructuring firm at a cost of $16.8 million.

In June, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Orleans Parish School Board signed an agreement relinquishing the management of the district’s multi-million dollar operating budget to the state. As a result, the district entered into negotiations with a New York turnaround management corporation, Alvarez and Marsal, to oversee its finances. In the contract, the board not only surrendered financial control, it also granted the firm authority to hire and fire employees.

Alvarez & Marsal put one of its senior partners, Bill Roberti, in charge of the district. Before joining the management consultants, Roberti had run the clothing store Brooks Brothers. A&M had previously received $5 million for a year of controlling the St. Louis school district, which was not “turned around,” and collected $15 million for reorganizing New York City’s school bus routes, with poor results (some children were stranded for long periods of time, waiting for buses on the coldest day of the year).


Before the hurricane, the state created the Recovery School District (in 2003) to take control of failing schools. In 2004, it passed Act 9, which allowed the state to take over schools with an academic score of 60 or less and hand them over to charter operators. After the hurricane, the Legislature passed Act 35, which changed the criteria for takeover and paved the way for the Recovery School District to take charge of most of the city’s public schools. Parents got “choice,” but the new charter schools created their own admissions policies, and most did the choosing.

Prior to Act 35, schools with School Performance Scores below 60 were considered to be in academic crisis. Act 35 raised the threshold score to 87.5, virtually ensuring every school in Orleans Parish would be deemed in academic crisis, and therefore, eligible for takeover by the Recovery District…Act 35 achieved what Governor Davis, Leander Perez, and segregationists failed to do in 1960. Act 35, for all intents and purposes, allowed the State of Louisiana to seize control of the Orleans Parish school district…The takeover of the failing schools within Orleans Parish made the Recovery District the largest school district in the State of Louisiana. Had the threshold for the School Performance Score not been raised in Act 35, the Recovery District would have taken over only 13 schools and had a much reduced presence and influence in public education in New Orleans.

After the hurricane, district officials and Alvarez & Marsal issued a diktat permanently terminating the jobs and benefits of more than 7,500 teachers and other staff.

Sixteen years since Hurricane Katrina and the privatization of public schools in New Orleans, the debate about the consequences continues, as it surely will for many more years.

For those interested in New Orleans, I recommend this book, along with Raynard Sanders’ The Coup d’Etat of the New Orleans Public Schools: Money, Power, and the Illegal Takeover of a Public School System, Kristen Buras’ Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance. For a favorable view of the charter takeover, read Douglas Harris’s Charter School City: What the End of Traditional Public Schools in New Orleans Means for American Education.



Bob Braun was an education reporter for 50 years. After he retired from the New Jersey Star-Ledger, he began blogging and paid close and critical attention to the state takeover of Newark. This column, posted in 2014, is as timely now as it was when it first appeared.

Let’s get this straight. Those of us opposed to the structural changes to public education embraced by crusaders ranging from the billionaire Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—along with Governor Chris Christie and Microsoft founder Bill Gates—are not opposed to the reform of public schools. We oppose their destruction.

We do not oppose making schools more accountable, equitable and effective—but we do oppose wrecking a 200-year-old institution—public education—that is still successful in New Jersey.

Public schools give students from all backgrounds a common heritage and a chance to compete against privileged kids from private schools. We don’t want schools replaced by the elitists’ dream of privately managed, publicly funded charter schools, which can be money makers for closely aligned for-profit entities.

We oppose eliminating tenure and find laughable the idea embodied in Teach for America (TFA), an organization that recruits new college graduates for short stays in urban schools, that effective classroom instructors can be trained in weeks if they’re eager and want breaks on student loans—breaks that come with TFA participation. We oppose breaking teacher unions, reducing education to the pursuit of better test scores and using test results to fire teachers. We want our teachers to be well trained, experienced, secure, supervised, supported and well paid. We want our kids to graduate from high school more than “college and career ready”—a favorite slogan of the reformers. We want them to graduate knowing garbage when they see it—to understand mortgages, for example, rather than just solving trigonometry problems.

Don’t call it reform, call it hijacking. A radical, top-down change in governance based on a business model championed by billionaires like Eli Broad, the entrepreneur whose foundation underwrites training programs for school leaders, including superintendents—among them, Christopher Cerf, New Jersey’s education commissioner from late 2010 until this past February. The Broad Foundation seeks to apply to public institutions, like schools, the notion of “creative destruction” popularized for businesses by economists Joseph Schumpeter and Clayton Christensen. In a memo forced into public view by New Jersey’s Education Law Center, leaders of the Broad Superintendents Academy wrote that they seek to train leaders willing to “challenge and disrupt the status quo.”

Sorry, but it’s neither clever nor wise to disrupt schools, especially urban schools. Irresponsible, distant billionaires cause unrest in communities like Newark, a place they’ll likely never get closer to than making a plane connection at its airport. These tycoons say they want to improve learning—to narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor, black and white. I don’t buy that. The gap is caused by poverty and racial isolation, not public schools. They want reform that doesn’t raise taxes and won’t end racial segregation. So they promote charter schools that segregate and pay for them with tax funds sucked from public schools. Bruce Baker, a professor at Rutgers Graduate School of Education, calls it “revenue neutral and nonintegrative” reform. What that means, Baker says, is “don’t raise our taxes and don’t let poor black and brown kids access better-resourced suburban schools.”

School reform once meant equity and integration. Now it’s called choice. Not the choice that would allow Newark kids to take a bus 15 minutes to Millburn. Not the choice that would allow the dispersion of disadvantage so the poorest attend the same schools as the most advantaged. It’s choice limited to a district. And choice limited to families who win a lottery for charter-school admission. “We’re letting poor parents fight it out among themselves for scrap—it’s Hunger Games,” says Baker.

Charters segregate. In Newark, where there are 13 charter schools, children with the greatest needs—special education kids, English-language learners, the poorest children—are stranded in asset-starved neighborhood schools. Disadvantage is concentrated, public schools close, and resources shift to charters. In Hoboken, three charter schools educate 31 percent of the city’s children, but enroll 51 percent of all white children and only 6 percent of youngsters eligible for free lunches.

Such skimming of the more able students lets proponents like Christie claim that charters outperform public schools. But charters serve a different population. In his devastating send-up of Newark’s North Star Schools, titled “Deconstructing the Cycle of Reformy Awesomeness,” Baker describes how charters achieve high test scores and graduation rates by shedding underperforming students. Half the kids—including 80 percent of African-American boys—dropped or were pushed out.

Charters are not the solution. “Overall, charters do not outperform comparable public schools and they serve a different population,” says Stan Karp, an editor at Rethinking Schools, an advocacy organization dedicated to sustaining and strengthening public education. He adds, “Nowhere have charters produced a template for district-wide equity and system-wide improvement.”

Many suburbs have resisted charters, but state-run urban districts like Newark cannot. In Newark, Christie joined with then Mayor Cory Booker, a devotee of privatization, to bring in Broad Academy graduates Chris Cerf to be state schools chief and Cami Anderson to be Newark superintendent. They were awarded a pledge of $100 million from Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg to support school reform in Newark.

Suburbs cannot escape other reforms, including federal insistence on relentless, time-consuming annual testing to measure student achievement and teacher performance. While states can opt out of testing, the price in lost federal revenues can be high. Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a national political action committee, applauds these changes as “bursting the dam” of resistance from unions to test-based evaluation and merit pay.

The coalition of foundations, non-governmental organizations and financial institutions promoting privatization is an opaque, multi-billion dollar, alternative governance structure. They include the Broad and Walton foundations; the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation; the Charter School Growth Fund and the NewSchools Venture Fund (a pair of nonprofit investment operations overseen largely by leaders of for-profit financial firms); the training and support organizations New Leaders for New Schools, the New Teacher Project and America Achieves; as well as the advocacy groups Stand for Children and Education Reform Now.

At its most recent summit of education reformers—including Newark’s Anderson—the NewSchools Venture offered workshops on “How Disruptive Can We Be?” and a seminar on charter schools that was advertised this way: “Charter schools are being brought into the center of reform strategies, not just to provide new options for some students, but to transform an entire public education system, based on a diverse portfolio of autonomous school operators.”

Why is school privatization such a draw for investors? Is it just philanthropy? No, there is also profit to be made from the $650 billion spent annually on public schools. Some charter school operations are profit making, including nearly two-thirds of charter school operators in Michigan and many in Florida—and Christie has been pressing to allow profit-making charters in New Jersey. Salaries for operators of charter school chains can run as high as $500,000 a year. The New Markets Tax Credit, pushed by charter supporter Bill Clinton when he was president, allows lenders to reap higher interest rates. Then there are rents paid by charter schools to charter-related profit-making companies like Newark’s Pink Hula Hoop (started by TEAM Academy board members); legal fees; and the sale of goods and services.

The costs of this movement: urban schools stratified. It’s an apartheid system, with the neediest warehoused in neglected public schools and a few lucky lottery winners in pampered charters. It is stratification on top of a system already stratified by all-white suburban districts and $35,000-plus private schools.

More costs: unconscionable amounts of time, energy and resources devoted to test preparation. The brightest young people, says Baker, will leave teaching to short-stay amateurs rather than endure the unpredictability of evaluations that rate a teacher “irreplaceable” one year and “ineffective” the next.

New Jersey ranks at the top nationwide in educational achievement, reports Education Week. We are second in “chance for success,” third in K-12 achievement and fifth in high school graduation. These statistics include urban schools; if properly funded, they succeed. Look at Elizabeth: good schools, no charters. Christie left it unmolested and provided millions in construction funds kept from other cities—perhaps because the school board endorsed him.

New Jersey is not the basket case Christie says it is. Urban schools are not failure factories. We don’t need a hostile takeover by Wall Street.

Billy Townsend was a school board member in Polk County, Florida. He saw up close and personal how charters were sucking the high-scoring students out of public schools and excluding the students with disabilities. He saw up close and personal how the state’s voucher program was serving as a refuge from high-stakes testing and enabling the restoration of racial segregation. Billy believes, as I do, that if the day ever comes when so-called reformers see the harm they are doing to kids and to our democratic institution of public education, they might repent. Will shame move them more than the pursuit of profit and power? Perhaps we are naive to think it might. But hope springs eternal that even the profiteers and entrepreneurs and shady fly-by-night grifters might someday see the light.

Billy has written a powerful series about the Jeb Crow school industry and how its sole purpose is to destroy public education without helping kids. All of the articles are referenced in this post, the last of the series. He has demonstrated how the voucher schools are highly segregated and low-quality. He refers to the choice schools as “failure factories” but now calls them “Jeb Crow” schools to credit former Governor Jeb Bush for creating the Big Lie that school choice saves children. It doesn’t.

Townsend throws out a challenge to reformers who are sincere, if there are any, about equity and helping kids:

Serious “reformers” — those who actually mean it when they use the moral, racialized language of equity in justifying punitive policies that destroy public education capacity — know today that their entire life’s work is bullshit that failed on its own terms. 

They know it. Every single one of them. Some of them will cry about America’s super awesome graduation rate; but they know that’s manipulated data bullshit, too. Mostly, they’ve just gone silent while think tanks beg to keep getting useless test data and grifters use the language and weaponry “reformers” provided them to demolish public education capacity for everyone. 

The question now: if, when, and how will “reformers” ever break their shamed silence about their failures and decide to help us fix them?

Jeb Crow means wealthier, whiter kids get high capital charters; more vulnerable, less white kids get no capital vouchers; and we kill/privatize public schools altogether.

The grifting and cheating by state education officials is breath-taking. They know that school choice is a cynical ploy to shift money from taxpayers to private corporations. They know that the corporation that handles the voucher funding now has assets of nearly $700 million. They know where power lies in Florida. They know how corrupt the Legislature is. But everyone goes along to get along.

If you read one thing today, read Billy Townsend’s reports on Florida’s massive crime against children and the state’s own future.

You may recall that the Oklahoma State Board of Education recently voted 4-3 to allow charter schools to share in local tax revenues, over the opposition of State Commissioner Joy Hofmeister, who said that the decision might violate state law. You may also recall that the virtual charter school in Oklahoma called EPIC has been embroiled in scandal after scandal (just google “Oklahoma EPIC scandal” and you will get lots of references to allegations of theft, embezzlement, ghost students, etc.). For example, in fall 2020, the state auditor reported that EPIC owes the state $8.9 million for inaccurate reporting, improper transfer of funds, and a multitude of other egregious (you might say “epic”) calculations. That $8.9 million was the tip of a very large iceberg. The state auditor said that about 1 of every 4 dollars that the state paid to EPIC (a total of $458 million) was deposited as profit by the school’s owners. The story is breathtaking.

The Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee (PLAC) posted this on its Facebook page:


Oklahoma PLAC
  Facebook post:

TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY??? 🔎 Where art thou?

We’re wondering why State Board of Education member Jennifer Monies did not recuse herself during last week’s vote to settle a lawsuit that directly benefited another entity of which she serves as board member. She is both plaintiff and defendant in this case yet she still cast a vote. 

“On numerous occasions in the board’s public meetings, Monies has mentioned her service on the board of her son’s school, John Rex Charter Elementary in Oklahoma City, which would stand to benefit from the settlement and which is listed as a member of the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association on the organizations’ website.”

And another tragic Farce

EPIC Charter Schools named Charter School of the Year by Choice Matters

Angie Sullivan is a teacher in a Title 1 elementary school in Las Vegas, a city with free-flowing funds for casinos and entertainment but underfunded schools. She frequently writes members of the legislature about their distorted priorities.

Angie writes:

Remember when the world mocked us because Nevada gave away the family farm to TESLA and RAIDERS?  
Raise your hand if you rushed to Carson City in a Special Session to create those deals?  Regressive on STEROIDS! 

Now the world can mock us for innovation zones.  
Nevada Democrats called the Teacher’s Union petitions regressive?   A few cents a week is nothing compared to large cash subsidies Nevada gives to attract businesses.   Billions given away for a few jobs.  


Tax Credits cashed in at the whim of TESLA/Casinos directly rob Nevadans and their children of hundreds of million of dollars.  The South gets ZERO TESLA benefit.  
There is a reason the accounting practice examined during #SB543 found CCSD was short $10 Billion dollars.  
https://tinyurl.com/aa4af7ja


We have various business tax credit scams sucking the Distributive School Account dry.   Add the Nevada Plan on top and no education money flows south from Carson City.   
Creating such huge inequity – northern folks scream Nevada cannot begin to adjust the money because no one in the state wants to educate students for the low per pupil amount forced on Clark County for decades.  


Attracting businesses by providing excessive bribes  or giving them deals so loose the world laughs – is not good business.  


And it steals from Vegas Kids who then need to pay Nevada’s bills.  


Southern Caucus you need to keep an eye on the money.  These lopsided business deals will cost your children.  The state has the right to negotiate a fair deal instead of sign onto a bad one because the business seems cool.  


Teachers want to pay for schools.  Anything we suggest cannot be called regressive next to this scamming business welfare project.  


Anything.   We.  Suggest.  Is.  Not.  As.  Regressive.  
Education needs stable money.   You have to fix it.  If you do not like our ideas – come up with something.  


The Teacher, 


Angie 

Good Jobs First entered the national scene when it produced documentation that the CARES Act was being used to funnel billions of dollars to private schools and charter schools. The charter schools were double-dipping, first taking money allotted to public schools, then getting millions more from the Paycheck Protection Program, which excluded public schools.

Now, Good Jobs First has released a new report, showing that students are paying for corporate tax breaks.

Abating Our Future:


How Students Pay for Corporate Tax Breaks
Executive Summary


Public school students in the U.S. suffered poorer schools—and local and state taxpayers paid higher taxes—in 2019 due to corporate tax breaks. Thanks to a new government accounting rule, we are able to prove that economic development tax abatements given to corporations cost public school districts at least $2.37 billion in forgone revenue in 2019. That is $273 million — or 13 percent— higher than two years before.


Across the country, 97 school districts lost more than $5 million each; 149 districts lost more than $1,000 per student.


Even though we looked at all 50 states and DC, these dollar amounts come from only 2,498 school districts in 27 states, which represent about 20 percent of independent school districts. For some of the states with no meaningful data, there are legitimate reasons, such as no independent reporting for school districts.

However, as we detail, some dozen states are failing to ensure that school districts and other local government bodies are adhering to the new accounting standard.


In essence, they are either exploiting loopholes in the rule or ignoring it altogether.


With no way of knowing how much revenue school districts are foregoing in these data-absent 23 states and the District of Columbia, it’s clear the harm of abatements is far greater than we can yet prove.


Those costs reduced school budgets, forced states and localities to raise their tax rates to offset at least some of the difference, or some of both.


In some of the states with the most complete disclosures, it is evident that the poor pay more. That is, school districts with the highest rates of poverty (measured by metrics such as the share of students who qualify for free or discounted school lunches) are likely to suffer the highest losses.


And because U.S. poverty is racialized, this means that Black and Brown students often suffer the greatest losses. Indeed, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark T. Bedell recently called tax abatements “systematic education racism.”

We hasten to add that these tax abatements are, in most states, granted by city or county governments, not by school boards. Even though state equity formulas try to offset the resulting losses, tax abatements effectively amount to what we call an “intergovernmental free lunch,” in which one body of government gets to spend another body’s revenue — a structural flaw that invites over-spending and defeats accountability.
Put another way, local school leaders not only have no say in whether their money should be given away, they often don’t even realize it’s happening.


This 2017-2019 surge in spending on corporate tax breaks also occurred despite the strong economic growth the U.S. enjoyed in that pre-pandemic time span. (Most school districts’ FY 2019 calendars ended June 30, 2019.) Indeed, the nation’s unemployment rate fell to record post-war lows during our study period.


We stress again: The $2.37 billion figure is a conservative summation based on incomplete data. Supposedly, all school districts that use the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) — set by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) — should report tax abatements. Though a minority of states do not require their school districts to follow GAAP, many of those districts still do use GAAP accounting, as Wall Street prefers it for rating bonds. Most states do mandate school districts to comply with GAAP, so when their abatement data is missing, we attribute this to either poor state oversight (state auditors, comptrollers or treasurers normally enforce such rules), or loopholes in how “tax abatements” are defined by GASB (or how those definitions have been specified in GASB’s annual Implementation Guides).


These definitional loopholes, or ambiguities of GASB Statement No. 77 (“GASB 77”) — especially regarding tax increment financing (or TIF) and Industrial Development Bonds (or IDBs) — are allowing some of these economic development tax expenditures to go unreported. We detail external evidence of these problems in several states. In other states, foregone revenue is offset through an increased local levy or by state aid. These states argue that GASB 77 does not apply to them because there was no foregone revenue to the districts themselves; instead all taxpayers contribute to the subsidy payouts.


We present in-depth case studies on five states with complete data:


▪ Missouri, where tax increment financing (TIF) proliferates, diverting much- needed revenues away from school districts.

▪ Louisiana, where three of the poorest districts — located in the parishes of West Baton Rouge, St. James, and St. John the Baptist — not only suffered sizeable forgone revenue in 2019 but also large increases from 2017. Indeed, teachers in East Baton Rouge made national news in 2019 when they voted almost unanimously to walk out if the parish school board granted another abatement to ExxonMobil.


▪ New York, where we found statistically significant association between greater tax abatements and higher shares of Black and Hispanic students, after controlling for district size or total enrollment.


▪ South Carolina, where six school districts each lost more than $2,000 per pupil (and four of those have Black + Brown student majorities), while total state losses soared by 31 percent to $423 million in FY 2019.


▪ Texas, where the Chapter 313 program results in heavy per-pupil losses thanks to a system that essentially rewards districts for doling out business subsidies.


In our conclusion, we make seven recommendations to the states and two suggestions to the GASB itself.


The best, most equitable solution is for states to shield school revenues entirely from abatement programs. They can simply rewrite their incentive-enabling laws to exclude from abatements those shares of local property and sales taxes that would normally be apportioned to K-12.


Short of that, we recommend that states cap the share of each locality’s property and sales tax base that can be abated in the name of economic development, and at a very small share, such as two percent. We also recommend caps on dollars per student that can be abated, at $200 annually.


Short of an absolute shield or tight caps, we recommend that states give school boards control to opt in or out of tax-break deals (i.e., to give them equivalent powers enjoyed by cities and counties).


We also recommend four actions by the states now to ensure compliance with GASB 77. They should create clear authority and mechanisms (led by a state auditor, comptroller, treasurer, or education department) to review the financial reports issued by school boards, and if, necessary, correct them. They should require that all localities include a GASB 77 note in their financial reports, whether they have reportable abatements or not. They should require localities to disclose even “immaterial” abatement costs (rather than allowing arbitrary definitional decisions). And they should require all governments that are actively making abatement agreements to compute and report the costs of such deals to all affected jurisdictions in plenty of time for inclusion in annual financial reports.


To the GASB itself, we urge it to start over on tax increment financing (TIF) and issue a clean new Statement that treats all three forms of TIF as reportable abatements akin to those clearly covered by Statement No. 77.


We also urge the GASB to finish the process it began in 2018 and openly declare that property tax abatements that are bundled with Industrial Development Bonds (IDBs) are abatements covered by Statement No. 77.


These safeguards reflect what Good Jobs First has learned since we first explored the tension between abatements and school funding in 2003, and in our many blogs, articles, and studies since GASB 77 was issued in 2015.


Communities cannot determine if tax abatements given to corporations in the name of economic development are worth the price if they don’t know the costs, especially to education.

Over the opposition of Joy Hofmeister, the state superintendent, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 4-3 to allow charter schools to have a share in property taxes and motor vehicle taxes that previously were reserved for public schools.

A groundbreaking settlement will fundamentally change the way charter schools are funded in Oklahoma, despite vehement opposition from the state’s top education official.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 4-3 on Thursday in favor of an agreement with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association to settle a 2017 lawsuit.

The charter school association called the agreement a “tremendous step” for equality in school funding.

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the settlement could violate state law and have “seismic” implications by redistributing school funding.

“Today’s board action circumvents the will of the people of Oklahoma and the state legislature by unilaterally determining how public education is to be funded,” Hofmeister said in a statement Thursday evening. “I fear this action knowingly violated Oklahoma statute and the Oklahoma Constitution.”

The original promise of charter schools when they started thirty years ago was that they would cost less than public schools because of their lack of bureaucracy. That pledge has long been forgotten as charters fight to have equal funding–or in some states, like Texas–more funding than public schools.

This decision will mean less money for Oklahoma’s underfunded public schools.

Joy Hofmeister is one of those rare state chiefs in a red state who puts public schools first.

Peter Greene reviewed the Network for Public Education’s report on for-profit charter schools in Forbes, where he is a regular columnist.

He writes:

It has become cliche for politicians and policy makers to oppose “for profit” charter schools. It’s also a safe stance, because most people agree they’re a bad idea; for-profit charter schools are not legal in almost all states. 

But charter school profiteers have found many loopholes, so that while they may not be able to set up for-profit charters, they can absolutely run charter schools for a profit. That may seem like a distinction without a difference, but the difference is that one is illegal in almost all states, and the other, as outlined in a new report, can be found from coast to coast. The new report, “Chartered for Profit,” from the Network for Public Education examines the size and reach of “the hidden world of charter schools operated for financial gain.” (Full disclosure: I am a member of NPE.)

The most common workaround for operating a charter school for profit is a management corporation. In this arrangement, I set up East Egg Charter School as a non-profit; I then hire East Egg Charter Management Organization to run the school, and that is a for-profit operation (known as an EMO).

An EMO is an educational management operator.

In some cases, the school and EMO are enmeshed with each other, sometimes with family ties. In Arizona, Reginald Barr runs a non-profit EMO that manages four charter schools; he also, with his wife Sandra, runs for-profit Edventure, which collects $125 per student for managing the schools. The schools lease property from a company owned by the Barrs and hire another Barr company to handle payroll. The four charter schools are controlled by a single board; Sandra Barr and her mother hold two of the three seats.

Some of these management operations are large scale; the report finds that just seven corporations manage 555 charter schools across the country. But chartering for profit can work on a small scale as well; of the 138 for-profit management companies NPE studied, 73 ran only one or two schools. In other words, the EMO is created specifically to run one particular school, not as a stand-alone business venture...

No matter the scale, “sweeps” contracts are a common tool. The management company provides virtually all of the school’s services (building, maintenance, curriculum, payroll, etc) and may even contract not for a set fee, but, as one EMO contract states, it receives “as renumeration for its services an amount equal to the total revenue received” by the school “from all revenue sources.”

There are other ways to pull profits from these operations. Many charter schools are part of lucrative real estate deals. One audit in New York found that the Diocese of New York was renting a facility to NHA for $264,000 per year; National Heritage Academy (NHA) sublet that space to its charter school $2.76 million. Jon Hage, CEO of Charter Schools USA, also owns Red Apple Development, whose website displays 66 CSUSA schools that Red Apple developed and, in most cases, owns and leases.

Cyber-charters are particularly profitable, with one recent report suggesting that Californians are overpaying cyber charters by $600 million.

Please open the link and read about the vultures feeding on public school money.

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post reviews the Network for Public Education report on for-profit charters, which explains how such money-grabbers function in states where they are supposedly illegal. Arizona is the only state where for-profit charters are legal, yet the report says they operate in 26 states and D.C. In Florida and Michigan, the majority of charters are run by for-profit companies.

Strauss points out that Joe Biden promised to cut off federal funding to for-profit charters. Here is a road map he can use to keep his promise.

She writes:

Now a new report, titled “Chartered For Profit: The Hidden World of Charter Schools Operated for Financial Gain,” details how many for-profit management companies (referred to as EMOs) evade state laws banning for-profit charters.


They set up nonprofit schools and then direct the schools’ business operations to related corporations. For example, it says, one of the largest EMOs, National Heritage Academies, “locks schools in with a ‘sweeps contract’ where virtually all revenue is passed to the for-profit management corporation, NHA, that runs the school.”


“In other cases, the EMO recommends their own related companies for services that include leasing, personnel services, and curriculum,” it says.


The report was produced by the Network for Public Education, an education advocacy group that opposes charter schools. It was written by Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and a former award-winning New York principal, and Darcie Cimarusti, the network’s communications director.


The authors wrote that despite “strict regulations against the disbursement of funds from the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) to charter schools operated by for-profit entities,” they identified more than 440 charter schools operated for profit that received grants totaling approximately $158 million between 2006 and 2017.


They also found that fewer disadvantaged students, proportionally, attend charters run for profit than at traditional public schools.


“Comparing the five cities with the most for-profit charter schools (by the proportion of students attending these schools) revealed that in all but one city — Detroit — for-profit run charters served far fewer students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch,” the report says. “In all cities, for-profit-run schools serve fewer students who receive services” under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.


Charters schools are publicly financed but privately operated. About 6 percent of U.S. schoolchildren attend charter schools, with 44 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico having laws permitting them.


Charter advocates say that these schools offer choices to families who want alternatives to troubled schools in traditional public school districts. Critics say that charter schools take money from public districts that educate most American children and are part of a movement to privatize public education.
This report is the third on federal funding of charter schools that the Network for Public Education has published since 2019. The earlier reports chronicle the waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on charter schools that did not open or were shut down — and revealed that the U.S. Education Department failed to adequately monitor federal grants to these schools. You can learn about the first two reports here and here.


For years, charter schools enjoyed bipartisan support — and were backed by the administrations of presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. But more recently, many Democrats have become skeptical of the charter movement, especially those schools that are operated or managed by for-profit entities — and Biden has vowed to stop federal funding for-profit charters.


But what is a for-profit charter?
“The term ‘for-profit charter school,’ while commonly used, does not accurately describe the vast majority of charters designed to create private profit,” the new report says.


While only one state — Arizona — legally allows for-profit entities to be licensed to operate charter schools, for-profit entities find ways to set up schools in states that only allow nonprofits to operate, it says.
The new report explains that typically, an EMO would find individuals interested in operating a charter school and then help “them create a nonprofit organization and apply for a charter license.”


Then, the board of the nonprofit group “enters into a contract with the for-profit EMO to run the school,” the report says. For-profit owners “maximize their revenue through self-dealing, excessive fees, real estate transactions, and under-serving students who need the most expensive services,” the Network for Public Education says.


Between September 2020 and February 2021, the authors said they identified more than 1,100 charter schools that have contracts with one of 138 for-profit organizations to control the schools’ key — or total — operations, including management, personnel and curriculum...

The report’s authors make recommendations to the U.S. Education Department and states regarding charters that are operated for profit, including:


• The Education Department “should conduct an extensive audit of present and former grantees to ascertain compliance with all regulations that define the for-profit relationship.”

• The federal government “should define a for-profit charter school as a school in which more than 30 percent of all revenue flows directly or indirectly to for-profit vendors.”

• All states should “follow the lead of Ohio by listing the management providers and posting their contracts with charter schools. To that information, the profit status of the EMO should be added.”

• Sweeps contracts should “be outlawed in every state.”• Related corporations of for-profit and nonprofit management companies should “be prohibited from doing business with their managed charter schools.”

• All charters should “be held by the school or campus itself, and not by a nonprofit subsidiary.”• A national database should “be developed that lists all charter EMOs and their corporate status (for-profit or nonprofit), along with their address and the name(s) of the private corporation’s owner(s).”

I said I would not reproduce blogs, with rare exceptions. Jan Resseger is that one rare exception.

In this post, she explains how the costs of vouchers are destroying and defunding Ohio’s public schools.