Archives for category: KIPP Charter Schools


This article in Education Week by two researchers—Joanne Golann and Mira Debs—ask why leaders of “no-excuses” charter schools think that children of color need harsh discipline. They interview parents and discover what they really want:

As researchers who have taught in and studied these schools, we found that parents’ attitudes were not that simple. The Black and Latino parents we interviewed in a no-excuses middle school valued discipline, but viewed it as more than rule following. They wanted demanding academic expectations alongside a caring and structured environment that would help their children develop the self-discipline to make good choices.

Recognizing the peer pressures their children faced, these parents told us that they did not want their children to become “robots” or “little mindless minion[s], just going by what somebody says.” Their concerns echo an earlier study that one of us (Joanne Golann) published in 2015, questioning whether the no-excuses model’s emphasis on obedience adequately prepares students for the self-directed learning skills they need to be successful in college.

What their children actually get is boot-camp discipline, where parents are called for the smallest infraction, like laughing during a fire drill.

No-excuses students are typically required to wear uniforms, sit straight, with their hands folded on the table, and their eyes continuously on the teacher. At breaks, they walk silently through the halls in single-file lines. Students who follow these stringent expectations are rewarded with privileges, while violators are punished with demerits, detentions, and suspensions.

The researchers say that Montessori schools get good results without harsh discipline in a climate that encourages creativity and collaboration.

I have always wondered where the no-excuses charters found bright young college graduates willing to enforce their harsh rules. Many of them presumably studied in progressive schools and colleges. How did they learn to enforce harsh rules? This “special” and harsh treatment of children of color smacks of colonialism.


CNN says that Senator Bernie Sanders will deliver a major address on education on Saturday. 

He will call for a flat ban on for-profit charters.

He supports the NAACP’s call for a moratorium on new charters.

Most important is this:

The Vermont independent also will call for a moratorium on the funding of all public charter school expansion until a national audit on the schools has been completed. Additionally, Sanders will promise to halt the use of public funds to underwrite all new charter schools if he is elected president.

That would mean elimination of the federal charter slush fund, which has wasted nearly $1 billion on schools that never opened or that closed soon after opening. This program, called the Charter Schools Program, was initiated in 1994 to spur innovation. It is currently funded at $440 million a year. Secretary DeVos used the CSP  to give $89 million to KIPP, which is already amply funded by the Waltons, Gates, and other billionaires and is not a needy recipient. She also has given $225 million to IDEA, part of which will be applied to opening 20 charters in El Paso.

If Senator Sanders means to eliminate CSP, that’s a very good step forward.

Every other Democratic candidate should be asked what they will do about the federal charter slush fund.



This is good news!

The House Appropriations Committee issued its budget report. Betsy DeVos requested an increase for the federal Charter Schools Program, from $440 million a year to $500 million. But the education appropriations subcommittee cut the appropriation to $400 million. This is a program that is riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse, as the Department of Education’s own Inspector General pointed out in the past, and as the Network for Public Education pointed out in its recent report called “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride.”

Thank you to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairperson of the education appropriations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. She is a deeply knowledgeable member of Congress who is committed to equity and works tirelessly to meet the needs of the American people for well-funded public schools

The NPE report found that one-third of the charter school funded by the federal government either never opened or closed soon after opening, costing taxpayers close to $1 billion in wasted funds.

Here is the report of the House Appropriations Committee. It increased the funding of well-respected programs that DeVos and Trump wanted to slash or kill, while cutting back on the Charter Schools Program (start reading at page 182).

Just in the last year, Secretary DeVos gave $116 million to a single charter chain, IDEA, which intends to flood the small El Paso district with charters; and she gave a grant of $86 million to KIPP. This concentration of funds in the hands of corporate charter chains was certainly not the intent of the program, which was meant to spur start-ups and innovation, not to enlarge established charter chains. KIPP, in particular, is amply funded by the Walton Family Foundation and a dozen other major foundations. It is hard to understand why this wealthy and powerful charter chain needs federal aid.

Charles Barone, the policy director of DFER (the hedge fund managers’ organization that pretends to be Democrats), expressed disappointment!

The Democratic state parties in California and Colorado have denounced DFER as a corporate front that should drop the word “Democrat” from its title.

Real Democrats support public schools, democratically governed and open to all, not corporate charter chains or private management.

By the way, the NPE report had no external funding. It was produced by the research of our brilliant staff and written by Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant.




In the latest round of awards from the federal slush fund for charter schools, Betsy DeVos handed out plums to the corporate chains KIPP and IDEA. 

KIPP, the largest nonprofit charter network in the country, is slated to receive $86 million over five years to create 52 new schools across 20 states and D.C.
IDEA, a Texas-based charter network, won an expected $116 million over five years. The network’s application says it will use the money to add grades at 56 schools and create 38 new schools across Texas; in New Orleans and East Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and in Tampa Bay, Florida.
The grants, announced last week, underscore the substantial role the federal government plays in helping charter schools expand. But they come at a perilous time politically for the charter school movement, which has seen its growth and popularity ebb in recent years. These networks’ plans for rapid growth might both run into — and fuel — political opposition, particularly in places where that growth will strain school districts’ finances.
As Chalkbeat notes, DeVos is trying to pump new life into the flagging charter movement, as exposes of charter scandals escalate and as some states see a decline in the number of charters as more close than open.


Bill Raden of the California progressive website Capital & Main is one of the state’s best education writers.

In the latest issue, he brings good news about the victory of David over Goliath, plus an important insight into the rigging of the state law by Netflix billionaire Reed Hastings.

First, the good news:

In a David vs. Goliath win, a coalition of East L.A. families, teachers and community groups announced last week that the City of L.A. has pulled the plug on a new “mega-KIPP” charter school development. The project was part of a $1 billion joint venture between former tennis star-turned charter school landlord Andre Agassi and money manager Bobby Turner to develop up to 130 charter properties across the country. The Boyle Heights community had been battling the 625-student facility since it was unveiled in the fall of 2017 and had filed suit against the city in January over its failure to conduct an environmental impact study. Opponents had argued that building the massive charter school in an area already at overcapacity (and facing declining enrollment) would have been fatal for neighborhood public schools that are currently fighting for survival. “We united the community,” said longtime Boyle Heights activist Carlos Montes. ‘We got the letter from the City of L.A. Planning Commission, terminating the project. So this is a victory. If you fight, you can win.’”

Then comes the stunning explanation of the culprit who turned the charter law into a license to raid the public treasury:

Correction: The L.A. Times’ March series (here, here and here) on California’s laissez-faire charter authorization fiasco contained one glaring omission. Investigative reporter Anna M. Phillips itemized a lurid list of the brazen self-dealing, financial conflicts of interest and outright fraud primarily abetted by lax charter oversight laws — but herself overlooked how those scandals were all brought to you by TechNet, a 1990s Silicon Valley venture capital group with a dystopian moniker out of The Terminator. Led by Netflix billionaire Reed Hastings, TechNet pushed through Assembly Bill 544, the 1998 law that supercharged California’s originally benign Charter School Act of 1992 into a charter-minting machine, essentially by rewriting both the spirit and the letter of an elected school board’s authorizing mandate from “may grant a charter” to “shall not deny a petition.” Phillips also failed to mention the heroine of the story — Assemblyperson Christy Smith(D-Santa Clarita), whose AB 1507 currently seeks to limit charters to the jurisdiction of their authorizing district. Smith’s bill is one of several reforms being debated by the state Assembly Education Committee on April 24 at 1:30 p.m. You can catch the live action here.”
 and USA Today New Jersey are running a five-part series called “Cashing in on Charter Schools, written by reporters Jean Rimbach and Abbott Koloff.

Follow this series if you care about integrity in spending public dollars.

What follows is an excerpt. Open the link to read the story. .

Part one.

NJ taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to construct and renovate charter school buildings, but the public doesn’t own them.

School buildings that are paid for with millions of dollars in public money but owned by private groups.

Inflated rents, high interest rates and unexplained costs borne by taxpayers.

And tax dollars used to pay rents that far exceed the debt on some school buildings.

This is the world of charter school real estate in New Jersey.

Where public money can disappear in a maze of intertwined companies.

Where businesses and investors can turn a profit at taxpayer expense.

And where decisions about millions in tax dollars are made privately, with little public input and little to no oversight by multiple state agencies.

More than two decades into the state’s experiment to create charter schools, which were conceived to provide residents with choices and to spur innovation, serious flaws in the design of the system have led to the diversion of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to private companies that control real estate.

Two of the state’s largest charter school operators, KIPP New Jersey and Uncommon Schools, have been permitted by the state to monopolize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid for public school construction, helping them to create networks of privately owned buildings.

And investors positioned themselves to make millions from taxpayers, including real estate entrepreneurs, developers and a range of lenders….

KIPP New Jersey’s new Newark Collegiate Academy building, located at 229 Littleton Ave., was built with the help of millions of dollars in federal aid.

What that means is that millions of your tax dollars are being siphoned off by private interests to pay for buildings ― often without your knowledge ― that you don’t own.

This letter by the head of the Atlanta AFT local was addressed to the chair of the board of Atlanta Public Schools, who is an alumnus of Teach for America. Four members of the school board are TFA alumni, presumably trained by TFA’s Leadership for Educational Equity and primed to support charter schools, not public schools. What is the connection between TFA and privatization? Why does TFA favor charter schools over public schools? Why would a locally elected school board want to relinquish its responsibilities to corporate charter chains controlled by out of state entities?

February 18, 2019
Jason F. Esteves, Board Chair
Atlanta Board of Education
130 Trinity Ave., SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Dear Board Chair Esteves:

You are now privileged to hold the position of Treasurer of the Georgia Democratic Party. That party has been pro-public education. Yet you are supporting the “Portfolio of Schools” model for Atlanta Public Schools.  This model is called “Innovative Schools” in Denver. And per your leadership, it is called “Excellent Schools” in Atlanta. “Excellent Schools” is not pro-public education. As you may or may not know, seven cities are being courted in order to turn their schools over to this model. 
In the interest of time and since I’ve not heard back from you, we are asking you once again to meet with some concerned Atlanta public school stakeholders and you are requested to walk away from the Portfolio of Schools plan.   We understand that you, one other board member, and the superintendent chose the facilitator to sell the Portfolio of Schools model to the board.

You, Eshe Collins, Matt Westmoreland, and Courtney English are TFA products.

  • What is the connection between TFA and KIPP?
In short, the direction of the board has amounted to preying on citizens and selling the district short. Black elected leadership has closed schools and brought in partnerships.
  • Does the board decide the partnerships or does the superintendent decide?
This superintendent served without goals or an evaluation for years.
  • Did the superintendent do her own evaluation, scorecard, and narrative?
  • How close to contract renewal did the board receive that information from the superintendent?
The superintendent’s contract is over in 2020. Unlike the previous process where Ann Cramer conducted various activities, we also want to discuss, vet and publish a process for a superintendent search that should be real and open. Unlike the last superintendent search, where we the union had reports from Austin, Texas, and St. Paul, Minnesota, it is time that Atlanta, all of Atlanta, know who is doing what. Atlanta taxpayers are being exploited. It is insane that you are awarding 25 to 40-year contracts to companies that are not about real evidence-based solutions for our children. The superintendent’s School Turnaround Strategy was a failure. The Strategic Plan was a failure. “Excellent Schools” is a private takeover with failure built in. You are closing schools, giving large charter companies contracts at the taxpayer’s expense and restructuring communities. Some members on the board are disengaged in the community, keeping big funding sources pleased in order to stay in the political arena.
  • Are you planning on running for City Council?
You ran for the state house and now you are on the Board of Education. You are Afro-Latino.
  • Are you aware of the Austin Latino Chamber of Commerce Op-Ed per the now Atlanta Superintendent?
We applaud you for forming relationships with the Latino Business Community, but per the Latinos and Hispanics in APS, we have not seen a comprehensive engagement plan with them.
Please walk away from the Portfolio of Schools plan and paradigm and, when and if you are ready, we are ready to help with evidence-based solutions that work in public schools. Please review the NCSL, OECD and PISA reports. The GFT asked former Senator Vincent Fort to sponsor the Community Schools Bill. It passed the Senate 50 to 1 a few years back. Senator Emmanuel Jones is sponsoring it during this session. By the way, when you close schools you destroy communities and gentrify.  Controlled agendas hurt people at-large. Please help champion the Community Schools Bill as the Chair of the Democratic Party supports it.

Thank you.

Verdaillia Turner, President, Atlanta Federation of Teachers

Andrea Gabor is the author of the new book, “After the Education Wars,” a penetrating account of the mistakes of the reform movement.

She writes here about the wrong turns taken by charter enthusiasts. How did a movement intended to unleash grassroots energy turn into an industry dominated by national corporate chains?

“When Albert Shanker, the legendary teachers’ union leader, promoted the idea of charter schools 30 years ago, he was hoping to create flexibility from the constraints of education bureaucracies and union contracts so teachers and communities could experiment and innovate.

“In the years since the first charter-school law was passed in Minnesota, in 1991, the charter movement has strayed far from Shanker’s original vision. Instead of community-based, educator-driven innovation, charters have grown into an industry dominated by like-minded management organizations that sometimes control hundreds of schools — some nationwide.

“These charter organizations have proliferated with the help of deep-pocketed philanthropists and businesspeople who have sought to transform the public-education system so that both charters and traditional public schools operate like companies competing in an economic market. Schools survive by producing the greatest gains, usually measured by test scores. The rest lose students as families choose the highest-performing schools or have their charters revoked by state-designated organizations that authorize charters.

“Now the charter industry is reaching an inflection point. Business backers are pushing to expand charter schools at an unprecedented rate, doubling down on the idea that free markets are the best approach to improving K-12 education. At the same time, critics — some from within the charter movement — are shining a spotlight on the industry’s failures and distortions…

“That faith in markets isn’t supported by the evidence, however. Studies show that, on average, charter schools and traditional public schools produce similar results. But freedom from regulation is associated not with success but with especially high failure rates; charter-school performance tends to be weakest in states with the laxest rules for ensuring education quality.

“Paradoxically, deregulation has also tended to narrow choices rather than expand them. New Orleans, for example, which has turned most of its public schools over to charter organizations, is dominated by charter-school oligopolies that enforce uniform curriculum and disciplinary standards. Instead of fostering creative pedagogy, the charter industry has focused on producing high test scores, the key measure by which philanthropists determine which charter organizations to finance. Teachers are typically required to teach canned curricula and rarely last more than a few years, and students are often subjected to one-size-fits-all discipline policies…

“Education policies should protect children and their schools from the brutal realities of the market while leaving room for the kind of teacher- and community-led experimentation that the charter movement was originally meant to foster.”

Gabor is the Bloomberg chair of business journalism at Baruch College of the City University of New York. This article appeared at Michael Bloomberg is a major supporter of charter schools nationally.

KIPP did not like Gabor’s article. But KIPP Is wrong, and Gabor is right. The original idea of charters was that each would be unique, and they would be teacher-led to try out new ideas. Neither Shanker nor the other charter originator Ray Budde ever imagined corporate charter chains with cookie-cutter “no excuses” policies. KIPP is the Walmart of charter schools, which may explain why the rightwing, anti-union Walton Family Foundation showers millions on them.

Chalkbeat reports that Eva Moskowitz wrote a letter to parents of students in her high school, explaining why 70% of the teachers left in one year.

High expectations are hard on everyone, she says. Draconian punishment is not easy.

But in the end, her methods pay off, she says. Only 33% of KIPP graduates persist to finish college. Of course, we have no idea how many of Eva’s 16 high school graduates will finish college because they graduated only a month ago.

Mike Feinberg, co-founder of the KIPP megacorporation national chain, was dismissed because of allegations of inappropriate sexual contacts with students, which he denied. Not to worry. Mike has a new gig, teaching people how to start charters.To be clear, I don’t approve of the behavior (unspecified) of which he was accused and led to his ouster or resignation.

I wish Mike would take a job helping public schools. Or he could be a fundraiser for the Network for Public Education.

You may not want to hear this, but I like Mike, even though I disagree with the whole charter school hustle. He invited me to Houston in 2010, and he was a very congenial host. I had a great Tex-Mex lunch with his staff, toured the flagship school, then lectured at Rice University. TFA co-sponsored the event. As he expected, I lambasted Charter schools and TFA. The room was packed with teachers who belonged to the Houston Federation of Teachers. I admired Mike for listening to a dissident like me.

C’mon, Mike, come on over to the good guys. The pay stinks, but you will definitely feel right with your conscience.