Archives for category: Segregation

A controversial Afrocentric charter school for Black students was approved by the Denver school boardhttps://www.denverpost.com/2022/09/23/5280-freedom-schoool-denver-dps-charter/, after initially rejecting the proposal. The board worried that the charter would not attract enough students to be viable. Other charters in Denver have closed because of declining enrollment. If you read the comments that follow the article, the main theme of writers is shock that the Denver school board would open a racially segregated school.

The Denver Post reported:

After the state ordered Denver Public Schools to reconsider a charter school centering Black students and culture, the school board Thursday approved the school to open next fall.

But the approval comes with conditions, including that 5280 Freedom School must fill all of its open seats in its first year. The school plans to open with 52 students in kindergarten and first grade, and add grades each year up to fifth grade.

Denver schools are funded per pupil, and other new charter schools have had to delay opening because they didn’t enroll enough students. Existing charter schools have closed because their enrollment declined, and the district is considering closing some of its own schools due to low student counts.

The school board initially rejected the 5280 Freedom School for fear it would struggle to attract enough students to be financially viable….Last month, the State Board of Education ordered Denver to reconsider its decision. State Board members said it was unfair to assume that 5280 Freedom School would face the same challenges as other charters.

The subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee in charge of education has paid attention to the scandals and closures that mar the charter industry. It issued the following legislative changes for the federal Charter Schools Program for fiscal 2023:

1. A cut in appropriations from $440 million to $400 million for new charters.

2. Eliminate federal funding to for-profit EMOs (education management organizations).

3. Support the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations to provide accountability and oversight for the charter schools it funds.

4. Endorse ED proposal that new charters seeking federal funding analyze need and community impact.

5. Endorse ED proposal that new charters seeking federal funds demonstrate that they will be integrated, not segregated.

6. Note that 15% of federally funded charters either never opened or closed down before the grant ended, which shows why applicants must demonstrate need for their services.

Charter Schools Grants

The Committee recommends $400,000,000 for Charter School Program (CSP) Grants, which is $40,000,000 below the fiscal year 2022 enacted level and the fiscal year 2022 budget request.

CSP awards grants to SEAs or, if a State’s SEA chooses not to participate, to charter school developers to support the development and initial implementation of public charter schools. State Facilities Incentive Grants and Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities awards help charter schools obtain adequate school facilities. These programs work in tandem to support the development and operation of charter schools.

For-profit Entities.—The Department has long recognized the particular risks posed by for-profit education management organi- zations (EMOs). In response to a 2016 audit, the Department con- ceded to the Inspector General, ‘‘ED is well aware of the challenges and risks posed by CMOs and, in particular, EMOs, that enter into contracts to manage the day-to-day operations of charter schools that receive Federal funds. We recognize that the proliferation of charter schools with these relationships has introduced potential risks with respect to conflicts of interest, related-party trans-actions, and fiscal accountability, particularly in regard to the use of federal funds.’’ Since that initial acknowledgement by the Department regarding for-profit EMOs, the Committee has been made aware of concerning instances of criminal fraud, conflicts of interest, and inadequate transparency.

In addition, the Committee is deeply concerned that for-profit charter schools, including those run by for-profit EMOs, deliver concerning outcomes for students. A 2017 report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes compared student performance at non-profit charters, for-profit charters, and traditional public schools and found that for-profit charters perform worse in reading, and significantly worse in math, than non-profit charters. In addition, the report found that for-profit charters per- form worse in math than traditional public schools.

That is why the Committee is strongly supportive of the Department’s proposal to prohibit Federal CSP funding from supporting for-profit EMOs through its notice published in the Federal Reg- ister on March 14, 2022 (87 Fed. Reg. 14197). The Committee in- cludes bill language codifying the prohibition to establish this precedent for fiscal year 2023 and for future years. Moving for- ward, the Committee urges the Secretary to work with Congress on efforts to fully phase out the concerning for-profit EMO sector. Such efforts could include reasonable transition periods that allow schools run by for-profit EMOs to shift to independent or nonprofit management. In the interim, the Committee is committed to con- tinuing its oversight of the for-profit EMO sector and ensuring fewer taxpayer dollars enrich for-profit EMO shareholders.

Defunct CSP Grantees.—The Committee is deeply concerned by the Department’s analysis that fifteen percent ofthe charter schools receiving CSP funding since 2001 have never opened or closed before their three-year grant period is complete, rep- resenting an unacceptable waste of at least $174,000,000 in tax- payer funds. Accordingly, the Committee is strongly supportive of the Department’s fiscal year 2022 CSP notice (87 Fed. Reg. 14197) that requires applicants to demonstrate local demand for new schools. The Committee rejects the premise that grant failure and school closure is the cost of doing business in CSP and welcomes reforms that will improve its performance.

GAO Mandate from House Report 116–450.—The Committee con- tinues to be supportive of GAO’s work on the mandate included in House Report 116–450 regarding the Department’s oversight over CSP and whether the program is being implemented effectively among grantees and subgrantees. The Committee is particularly in- terested in theissue of CSP-funded schools that eventually closed or received funds but never opened; the relationships between charter schools supported by CSP grants and charter management or- ganizations; and enrollment patterns at these schools, especially for students with disabilities. Inaddition, the Committee is interested in recommendations on potential legislative changes to the program that would reduce the potential for mismanagement and inef- fective operations.

Oversight from the Office of Inspector General.—The Committee continues to support efforts by the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to examine grantee administration of Replication and Expansion Grants, including charter management organization grantees. The Committee also supports the OIG’s efforts to evalu- ate whether the Department adequately monitored grantees’ per- formance and uses of funds for CSP competitions.

Students with Disabilities and English Learners.—The Com- mittee encourages the Department to continue including in their evaluation of State CSP grants the extent to which State entities are utilizing the seven percent of funding received under the pro- gram to ensure that charter schools receiving CSP grants are equipped to appropriately serve students with disabilities and, by extension, prepared to become high-quality charter schools. In ad- dition, the Committee urges the Department to ensure subgrantees are equipped to meet the needs of English learners. The Committee directs the Department to provide an update on these efforts in the fiscal year 2024 Congressional Budget Justification.

Charter School Effects on School Segregation.—The Committee is concerned by findings from a 2019 Urban Institute report which concluded that growth in charter school enrollment increases the segregation of Black, Latino, and white students. To address this concern, the Committee urges the Department to give priority to applicants thatplan to use CSP funds to operate or manage char- ter schools intentionally designed to be racially and socioeconomically diverse.

The Committee is strongly supportive of proposed requirements in the Department’s fiscal year 2022 CSP notice (87 Fed. Reg. 14197) that grantees show that they will not exacerbate school seg- regation. Accordingly, the Committee urges the Department to ex- amine the merits of diversity reporting that compares demographic data ofgrantees to that of local districts. The Committee directs the Department to share its assessment of CSP diversity reporting, along with any prospective plans for implementation, in the fiscal year 2024 Congressional Budget Justification.

For several years, I have sponsored an annual lecture series about education policy at Wellesley College, my alma mater. We have had a number of distinguished speakers, including Pasi Sahlberg, Yong Zhao, Andy Hargreaves, and Eve Ewing.

This year, the invited speaker was Dr. Helen Ladd, one of the nation’s most eminent economists of education. Dr. Ladd is the Susan B. King Professor Emerita of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University. She graduated from Wellesley in 1967, earned her M.A. at the London School of Economics and her Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has written extensively about school finance, equity, choice, and accountability.

Dr. Ladd discussed how charter schools disrupt good education policy.

Jan Resseger, now retired, spent her career as an activist for social justice. Her recent essay was reposted by the Network for Public Education. It seemed appropriate to post it on the 68th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision of 1954. In trying to assess the meager progress towards the ideals of Brown—specifically, equality of educational opportunity—she lays some of the blame on No Child Left Behind and the corporate school reform movement,

Jan Resseger attended the recent Network for Public Education conference, where she took inspiration from speaker Jitu Brown, director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. Reposted with permission.

She wrote:

A highlight of the Network for Public Education’s recent national conference was the keynote from Jitu Brown, a gifted and dedicated Chicago community organizer and the national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. His remarks made me think about the meaning of the last two decades of corporate school reform and the conditions today in his city and here where I live in greater Cleveland, Ohio. It is a sad story.

Brown reflected on his childhood experience at a West Side Chicago elementary school, a place where he remembers being exposed to a wide range of information and experience including the study of a foreign language. He wondered, “Why did we have good neighborhood schools when I went to school but our kids don’t have them anymore? For children in poor neighborhoods, their education is not better.”

Brown described how No Child Left Behind’s basic drilling and test prep in the two subjects for which NCLB demands testing—math and language arts—eat up up more and more of the school day. We can consult Harvard University expert on testing, Daniel Koretz, for the details about why the testing regime has been particularly hard on children in schools where poverty is concentrated: “Inappropriate test preparation… is more severe in some places than in others. Teachers of high-achieving students have less reason to indulge in bad preparation for high-stakes tests because the majority of their students will score adequately without it—in particular, above the ‘proficient’ cut score that counts for accountability purposes. So one would expect that test preparation would be a more severe problem in schools serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students, and it is.” (The Testing Charade, pp. 116-117)

Of course, a narrowed curriculum is only one factor in today’s inequity. Derek W. Black and Axton Crolley explain: “(A) 2018 report revealed, school districts enrolling ‘the most students of color receive about $1,800 or 13% less per student’ than districts serving the fewest students of color… Most school funding gaps have a simple explanation: Public school budgets rely heavily on local property taxes. Communities with low property values can tax themselves at much higher rates than others but still fail to generate anywhere near the same level of resources as other communities. In fact, in 46 of 50 states, local school funding schemes drive more resources to middle-income students than poor students.”

Again and again in his recent keynote address, Jitu Brown described the consequences of Chicago’s experiment with corporate accountability-based school reform. Chicago is a city still coping with the effect of the closure of 50 neighborhood schools in June of 2013—part of the collateral damage of the Renaissance 2010 charter school expansion—a portfolio school reform program administered by Arne Duncan to open charter schools and close neighborhood schools deemed “failing,” as measured by standardized test scores. On top of the charter expansion, Chicago instituted student-based-budgeting, which has trapped a number of Chicago public schools in a downward spiral as students experiment with charter schools and as enrollment diminishes, both of which spawn staffing and program cuts and put the school on a path toward closure.

As Jitu Brown reflected on his inspiring elementary school experience a long time ago, I thought about a moving recent article by Carolyn Cooper, a long time resident of Cleveland, Ohio’s East Glenville neighborhood: “I received a stellar education in elementary, junior high, and high school from the… Cleveland Public School system… All of the schools I attended were within walking distance, or only a few miles from my home. And at Iowa-Maple Elementary School, a K-6 school at the time, I was able to join the French Club and study abroad for months in both Paris and Lyon, France… Flash forward to this present day… To fight the closure of both Iowa-Maple and Collinwood High School, a few alumni attended a school facilities meeting held in October 2019 at Glenville High School… Despite our best efforts, Collinwood remained open but Iowa-Maple still closed down… Several generations of my family, as well as the families of other people who lived on my street, were alumni there. I felt it should have remained open because it was a 5-Star school, offering a variety of programs including gifted and advanced courses, special education, preschool offerings, and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).”

In his keynote address last week, Jitu Brown explained: “Justice and opportunity depend on the institutions to which children have access.” Brown’s words brought to my mind another part of Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood less than a mile from Iowa-Maple Elementary School. If you drive along Lakeview Road between Superior and St. Clair Avenues, you see a neighborhood with older homes of a size comfortable for families and scattered newer rental housing built about twenty years ago with support from tax credits. You also see many empty lots where houses were abandoned and later demolished in the years following the 2008 foreclosure crisis. Separated by several blocks, you pass two large weedy tracts of land which were once the sites of two different public elementary schools—abandoned by the school district and boarded up for years before they were demolished. You pass by a convenience store surrounded by cracked asphalt and gravel. Finally you pass a dilapidated, abandoned nursing home which for several years housed the Virtual Schoolhouse, a charter school that advertised on the back of Regional Transit Authority buses until it shut down in 2018.

My children went to school in Cleveland Heights, only a couple of miles from Glenville. Cleveland Heights-University Heights is a mixed income, racially integrated, majority African American, inner-ring suburban school district. Our children can walk to neighborhood public schools that are a great source of community pride. Our community is not wealthy, but we have managed to pass our school levies to support our children with strong academics. We recently passed a bond issue to update and repair our old high school, where my children had the opportunity to play in a symphony orchestra, and play sports in addition to the excellent academic program.

Jitu Brown helped organize and lead the 2015 Dyett Hunger Strike, which forced the Chicago Public Schools to reopen a shuttered South Side Chicago high school. Brown does not believe that charter schools and vouchers are the way to increase opportunity for children in places like Chicago’s South and West Sides and Cleveland’s Glenville and Collinwood neighborhoods. He explains: “When you go to a middle-class white community you don’t see charter schools…. You see effective, K-12 systems of education in their neighborhoods. Our children deserve the same.”

In the powerful final essay in the new book, Public Education: Defending a Cornerstone of American Democracy, Bill Ayers, a retired professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago, agrees with Jitu Brown about what ought to be the promise of public education for every child in America:

“Let’s move forward guided by an unshakable first principle: Public education is a human right and a basic community responsibility… Every child has the right to a free, high-quality education. A decent, generously staffed school facility must be in easy reach for every family… What the most privileged parents have for their public school children right now—small class sizes, fully trained and well compensated teachers, physics and chemistry labs, sports teams, physical education and athletic fields and gymnasiums, after-school and summer programs, generous arts programs that include music, theater, and fine arts—is the baseline for what we want for all children.” (Public Education: Defending a Cornerstone of American Democracy, pp. 314-315) (emphasis in the original)

Jan Resseger writes here about the continuing effects of racism on school funding today, not only in the south but across the nation. She cites the important writings of law professor Derek Black, whose work deeply informed her about the history of racism and how it persists today (I think that is called “critical race theory”).

She writes:

In a powerful new article, Legacy of Jim Crow Still Affects Funding for Public Schools, constitutional law professor, Derek Black and Axton Crolley expose the largely unexamined racist past of the kind of school funding inequity we observe today across many of the fifty states.

Derek Black’s Schoolhouse Burning is the best and most complex history of American public education I know. While the history of our public schools is generally traced back to New England and Horace Mann, Derek Black’s book examines progress toward equity in the South during Reconstruction, its reversal in the Jim Crow era, the corrections attempted during the Civil Rights Movement, and a period of reaction against the Brown v. Board of Education decision…

In their new article Black and Crolley describe how, after the collapse of Reconstruction, Southern states devised policies to perpetuate inequality: “Some… used ‘racially distinct tax’ policies that reserved separate funds for white and Black schools. Other states… moved school funding responsibility and control from state officials to local communities. Local officials could then ensure inequality without any specific law mandating it… (D)uring the Jim Crow era, localism became the tool to reverse… progress and equality. States increased reliance on local taxation, gave local white officials discretion over state funds, and constitutionally secured segregation. Some went so far as to craft color-coded funding systems where white taxes funded white schools exclusively… The development of Northern local school systems was historically distinct. Yet even in some Northern states, racial antagonism and concerns over segregation prompted pushes for local decision-making.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education was intended to address this long history of inequality, but there was a serious omission: “Nearly 70 years ago—in its Brown v. Board decision—the Supreme Court framed racial segregation as the cause of educational inequality… That framing rightly focused on segregation’s immediate horror—excluding students from schools based on the color of their skin—but obscured an important fact. In addition to requiring school segregation, many states also had long segregated school funding. Some had used ‘racially distinct tax’ policies that reserved separate funds for white and Black schools. Other states had moved school funding responsibility and control from state officials to local communities. Local officials could then ensure inequality without any specific law mandating it. Brown’s focus on physical segregation inadvertently left important and less obvious aspects of local funding inequality unchecked.

As she goes on to demonstrate, these issues perpetuate inequitable funding, based on residence and race. This is a crucial feature of systemic racism, a survival of Jim Crow that harms the education of children of color. Many states in the South and Midwest are passings laws to criminalize the study and knowledge of systemic racism. They fear the teaching the truth will make white students uncomfortable.

Kris Nordstrom of the NC Policy Watch notes the loud whining by charter advocates who are outraged by the common sense reforms proposed b6 the Biden administration’s Department of Education. They are whining, writes Nordstrom, because they are guilty of every malpractice that the reforms aim to cure.

Nordstrom begins:

Advocates for charter schools have long justified the existence of charters by claiming they serve as laboratories of innovation for traditional schools. They have claimed that operational flexibility and exemption from regulation allows them to operate more efficiently than traditional public schools. And they have claimed that they are not only willing – but better suited – to serve students from families with low incomes.

These premises have been disproven over the course of North Carolina’s nearly 30-year-long experiment with charter schools. There are no examples of charter school innovations that have offered new approaches for traditional schools (after all, traditional schools can’t follow the example of “successful” charters that garner high test scores by pushing out struggling students). Nor have charters delivered efficiency gains. Charters spend substantially more on administration than their traditional school counterparts. Most North Carolina charters outspend their neighboring traditional schools while serving a more advantaged student population and delivering weaker academic outcomes. Meanwhile, North Carolina charters continue to exacerbate racial segregation and raise costs for traditional inclusive public schools.

Charter advocates have long disputed the overwhelming evidence of their ineffectiveness. But now, they are making the case themselves.

At issue are recent changes to the terms of the federal Charter School Program (CSP) grant programs. The CSP provides money to states to run grant programs, “to open and prepare for the operation of new charter schools and to replicate and expand high-quality charter schools.” North Carolina was awarded these federal grant funds specifically to support charters, “focused on meeting the needs of educationally disadvantaged students.”

Unfortunately, the program run by North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction has failed to meet these goals. Much of the federal funding has been awarded to schools with a history of serving as white flight charter schools and that enroll substantially fewer students from families with low incomes than nearby inclusive public schools. Incredibly, Torchlight Academy was awarded a $500,000 grant in 2020. Just two years later, this school has had its charter revoked for rampant corruption and poor student results

Are high-quality charters unwilling to operate if they can no longer divert as much money as possible into the pockets of corporations? Are charters unwilling to serve as laboratories for innovation that work with traditional public schools to expand promising practices? Are charters unable to craft community impact statements because they are unable to demonstrate community benefits? Are they unwilling to commit to greater school integration efforts because they’d rather effectively pick and choose who their students are?

By opposing the CSP rule changes, charter supporters are implicitly answering the above questions in the affirmative. Their protests affirm the arguments made by charter critics that such schools are overly focused on profit-hoarding, unable to serve as collaborative partners in developing and scaling instructional innovation, exacerbate budget challenges, and contribute to segregation.

The proposed CSP rule changes do not in any way undermine charter schools. They simply ask charters seeking supplemental federal funds to try to live up to the promises made by charter advocates. The protests of charter advocates indicate that – as many of us have been arguing for years – charter schools are largely unable to live up to these promises.

And if charters are – as they now admit – unable to meet these promises, then policymakers should question not just whether they deserve supplemental federal funding through the CSP…but whether such schools are deserving of public funding at all.

A writer who identifies here as quickwrit sent a comment to the U.S. Department of Education commending it for the proposed regulation of the federal Charter Schools Program, which dispenses $440 million a year to start new charter schools or expand existing ones. During the Betsy DeVos years, she showered many millions of dollars on some of the nation’s largest charter chains. Some, like the IDEA chain in Texas, received more than $200 million to grow their brand. Back when the program started, its founders envisioned small mom-and-pop charters or teacher-led schools that needed some money to get started. What they did not envision was the Walmartization of schools into giant corporate chains.

CHARTER SCHOOL FRAUD: The impartial, non-political watchdog Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education has issued a report warning that so much taxpayer money is being skimmed away from America’s genuine public schools and pocketed by private corporate charter school operators that the IG investigation declared that: “Charter schools and their management organizations pose a potential risk to federal funds even as they threaten to fall short of meeting goals” because of financial fraud and their hidden ways for skimming of tax money into private pockets.

This is quickwrit’s message to the U.S. DOE:

There is NO SUCH THING as a “public charter school”. Charter school operators spend a lot of taxpayer money telling taxpayers that charter schools are “public” schools — but they are not. As the Supreme Courts of Washington State and New York State have ruled, charter schools are actually private schools because they fail to pass the minimum test for being genuine public schools: They aren’t run by school boards who are elected by, and therefore under the control of and accountable to voting taxpayers. All — ALL — charter schools are corporations run by private parties. Taxpayers have no say in how their tax dollars are spent in charter schools.

The Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) — which is funded by pro-charter organizations — has been conducting years-long research into the educational quality of charter schools. And yet even this charter-school-funded research center’s findings are that charter schools don’t do any better academically than genuine public schools. Moreover, CREDO reported that in the case of popular online charter schools, students actually lose ground in both reading and math — but online charter schools are the fastest-growing type of charter school because they make it easiest to skim away public tax dollars.

The racial resegregation of America’s school systems by the private charter school industry is so blatant and illegal that both the NAACP and ACLU have called for a stop to the formation of any more charter schools. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA summed it up, stating that charter schools are “a civil rights failure.” The catch-phrase “school choice” was concocted by racists following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling that required racial integration in public schools. After that, racist organizations used racist politicians to conduct a decades-long attack that underfunded public schools and crippled their ability to provide the full measure of education and to “prove” that public schools were “failing”. Public school “failure” is an issue manufactured by racists organizations and politicians.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/petergreene/2019/03/29/report-the-department-of-education-has-spent-1-billion-on-charter-school-waste-and-fraud/#ab1fbdb27b64

Please send your own comments to:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/03/14/2022-05463/proposed-priorities-requirements-definitions-and-selection-criteria-expanding-opportunity-through#open-comment

This year, for the first time since the federal Charter Schools program was established in 1994, the U.S. Department of Education is setting forth meaningful regulation of the program. This is a historic development and great news for those of us who have watched the charter industry escape accountability and transparency, while tolerating grift and profiteering.

As the Network for Public Education showed in two major reports (Asleep at the Wheel and Still Asleep at the Wheel), the federal charter program is riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse. Nearly 40% of the charter schools funded by this program either never opened or closed soon after opening. About $1 billion was wasted.

The Department has made a good faith effort to repair the negative aspects of the Charter School Program and to create regulations that would put guardrails in place for charter schools.

There are three key features to these regulations:

First, to qualify for federal funding, charters must develop an impact statement, describing the demographics that they will serve, whether there is a need for their proposed charter, whether the charter would intensify racial segregation in district schools, and how the charter would impact the local district schools.

Second, charters would have to demonstrate how they will serve the local community.

Third, charters operated by for-profit organizations would not be eligible for funding.

These are all significant reforms that have the potential to turn charters into good neighbors of public schools.

I urge you to write your own comment to support the Department’s bold effort to regulate the recipients of federal money for charters ($440 million). You can write 50 words in the comment or write a letter and attach it.

Please open this link to make a comment or send a letter:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/03/14/2022-05463/proposed-priorities-requirements-definitions-and-selection-criteria-expanding-opportunity-through#open-comment

Please read the letter that Carol Burris wrote on behalf of the Network for Public Education, posted here.

Comments from The Network for Public Education Regarding Proposed Priorities, Requirements, Definitions, and Selection Criteria-Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP)-Grants

Docket ID Number: ED-2022-OESE-0006

April 1, 2022

The Network for Public Education (NPE) writes in response to the invitation to submit comments regarding “Proposed Priorities, Requirements, Definitions, and Selection Criteria-Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP)-Grants to State Entities (SE Grants); Grants to Charter Management Organizations for the Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools (CMO Grants); and Grants to Charter School Developers for the Opening of New Charter Schools and for the Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools (Developer Grants).

NPE is a national non-profit organization with 350,000 subscribers. We network with nearly 200 national, state, and local organizations all committed to the same mission—to preserve, strengthen and support our democratically governed public school system. For the past several years, we have been deeply concerned by what we view as endemic corruption and waste in the Federal Charter Schools Program.

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) must update its priorities and its requirements to address loopholes and flaws in the program that have resulted in for-profit run schools receiving grants, 12% of all CSP grants going to charter schools that never open, grants received by schools and charter management organizations that provide false and misleading information, and sub-grants issued to charter schools with a history of exacerbating racial segregation and that exclude, by policy or practice, students with disabilities and students who are English Language Learners.

The Award of CSP Grants Charter Schools Operated by For-Profit Organizations

We strongly support the Department’s attempt to ensure that charter schools operated by for-profit management corporations do not receive CSP grants, specifically this language:

(a) Each charter school receiving CSP funding must provide an assurance that it has not and will not enter into a contract with a for-profit management organization, including a non-profit management organization operated by or on behalf of a for-profit entity, under which the management organization exercises full or substantial administrative control over the charter school and, thereby, the CSP project.

The federal definition of a public school under IDEA and ESEA is “a nonprofit institutional day or residential school, including a public elementary charter school, that provides elementary education, as determined under State law.” 20 U. S.C. §§ 1401(6) (IDEA), 7801(18) (ESEA) Similarly, the statutes define a “secondary school” as “a nonprofit institutional day or residential school, including a public secondary charter school, that provides secondary education, as determined under State law․” 20 U.S.C. §§ 1401(27) (IDEA), 7801(38) (ESEA).

Former for-profit entities have created non-profit facades that allow the for-profit and its related organizations to run and profit from the charter school, following the judgment of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Arizona State Bd. For Charter Schools v. U.S. Dept. of Educ. in 2006 (464 F.3d 1003).

Ineffective provisions undermine the present regulations against the disbursement of funds from the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) to charter schools operated by for-profit entities. We identified over 440 charter schools operated for profit that received grants totaling approximately $158 million between 2006 and 2017, including CSP grants to schools managed with for-profit sweeps contracts.

We offer as examples the recent CSP grants awarded to Torchlight Academy Charter School of North Carolina and Capital Collegiate Preparatory Academy of Ohio. We also bring your attention to the audit of a charter school run by National Heritage Academies in New York. The State Comptroller specifically chides the charter board for the fees taken by a for-profit that played the role of applying for and managing grants. National Heritage Academies schools have frequently received CSP grants and operate under sweeps contracts.

The relationship between a for-profit management organization is quite different from the relationship between a vendor who provides a single service. A school can sever a bus contract and still have a building, desks, curriculum, and teachers. However, in cases where charter schools have attempted to fire the for-profit operator, they find it impossible to do without destroying the schools in the process.

Recommendations:

Many for-profit organizations operate by steering business to their for-profit-related entities. They are often located at the same address, and the owner of the management company or a member of the immediate family is the owner of the related entity. Therefore, it is recommended that wherever references to for-profit organizations appear, the phrase “and its related entities” is added.

(a) Each charter school receiving CSP funding must provide an assurance that it has not and will not enter into a contract with a for-profit management organization, including a non-profit management organization operated by or on behalf of a for-profit entity, under which the management organization and its related entitiesexercise(s) full or substantial administrative control over the charter school and, thereby, the CSP project.

Quality Control of Awards and the Importance of Impact Analysis

We strongly support the proposed regulations that seek to bring greater transparency and better judgment to the process of awarding CSP grants. We especially support the inclusion of a community impact analysis.

We are pleased that “the community impact analysis must describe how the plan for the proposed charter school take into account the student demographics of the schools from which students are, or would be, drawn to attend the charter school,” and provide “evidence that demonstrates that the number of charter schools proposed to be opened, replicated, or expanded under the grant does not exceed the number of public schools needed to accommodate the demand in the community.”

More than one in four charter schools close by the end of year five. A foremost reason for both public school and charter closure and the disruption such closures bring to the lives of children is low enrollment, as seen this past month in Oakland. In New Orleans, school closures have resulted in children being forced to attend multiple schools during their elementary school years, often traveling long distances. Between 1999 and 2017, nearly one million children were displaced due to the closure of their schools, yet only nine states have significant caps to regulate charter growth.

We applaud language that states, “The community impact analysis must also describe the steps the charter school has taken or will take to ensure that the proposed charter school would not hamper, delay, or in any manner negatively affect any desegregation efforts in the public school districts from which students are, or would be, drawn or in which the charter school is or would be located, including efforts to comply with a court order, statutory obligation, or voluntary efforts to create and maintain desegregated public schools…”

In some states, charter schools have been magnets for white flight from integrated schools. Other charter schools have attracted high achieving students while discouraging students with special needs from attending. And, as you know from the letter you received in June of 2021 from 67 public education advocacy and civil rights groups, the North Carolina SE CSP sub-grants were awarded to charter schools that actively exacerbated segregation, serving in some cases, as white flight academies The information requested by the Department is reasonable and will help reviewers make sound decisions.

In addition to our support for the proposed regulations, we have two additional recommendations to strengthen the impact analysis proposal.

Recommendations: (1) That impact analysis requirements include a profile of the students with disabilities and English Language Learners in the community along with an assurance that the applicant will provide the full range of services that meet the needs of students with disabilities and English Language Learners. (2) That applicants include a signed affidavit provided by district or state education department officials attesting to the accuracy of the information provided.

Regarding proposed rules regarding transparency, we note that in the past, schools were awarded grants without providing even one letter of support, or provided false information indicating support that did not exist.

We also strongly support the requirement state entities provide additional supervision of grants. Some will argue that they do not receive sufficient funding to provide supervision. We believe that funding is more than sufficient and we offer the following example as evidence.

In 2020, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools(PCPCS) received a SE grant of $30 million to open 18 new or expanded charters in the Commonwealth within five years. ESSA allows state entities to retain 10% of all grant funding with 3% dedicated for grant administration. That means that this small state entity would have access to $1 million dollars to supervise the CSP grant spending of eighteen schools. Given that it is a five-year grant, PCPCS would therefore be allowed to spend from CSP funding $200,000 a year to review applications and keep track of grant spending.

To date, three schools have been awarded grants according to the two co-directors hired to administer the program.

We strongly support all SE sub-grant review requirements. These include: (a) how peer reviewers will be recruited and selected, and (b) efforts the applicant must make to recruit peer reviewers from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups. We applaud the requirement for a review team. In some states, including New York, CSP sub-grants are routinely distributed as part of the charter authorization process.

To those proposals we suggest adding the following:

Recommendations: (1) That review teams must include at least one reviewer representative of the district public school community. (2) that a minimum point threshold be established for an award, (3) that applications be checked for factual accuracy, and (4) that applications be posted for public review and comment for a period of no less than 45 days before award decisions.

We also recommend that the Department retain funds from the Charter Schools Program to conduct audits of all Developer, CMO and SE subgrants to ensure the funds are being properly spent and that the conditions and aspirations as described in the applications are being met. Annual audits of 5% of all active awardees in each of the programs, randomly chosen by the Department should be conducted each year.

Priorities One and Two

We strongly support the proposed priorities, which we believe will help return the charter school movement back to its original purpose and benefit the children who attend charter schools. Priority one builds off the successful community schools’ movement. Priority two encourages cooperative activities between district and charter schools. We believe that these priorities should be absolute priorities.

Unfortunately, in many cases charter schools’ employee handbooks commonly require teachers to sign nondisclosure agreements that threaten legal action if they reveal the schools “trade secrets” including such things as “curriculum systems, instructional programs, curriculum solutions … new materials research, pending projects and proposals, proprietary production processes, research and development strategies, technological data, and technological prototypes.”

Recommendation

That the Department disallows grants or sub-grants to any schools that apply under priority two if the school or the CMO considers educational material confidential and proprietary and/or does not make publicly available financial, personal or contracting information.

Planning Grants to Unauthorized Charter Schools

According to a 2019 response to Representative Raul Grijalva by then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, 12% of all CSP grants between 2001 and 2019 were awarded to schools that never opened and were not expected to open. In most cases, these schools had never achieved authorization. Whether unauthorized schools can receive funding for planning purposes and how much can be awarded has been left up to the states. This has resulted in large amounts of federal CSP money in the pockets of people who provided no service to the public.

It has also resulted in egregious abuse, especially in Michigan, where charter schools have received more than $100,000 in awards before their authorization was approved. An in-depth review of such planning grants by Michigan State Board of Education President Cassandra Ulbrich revealed questionable submissions, including invoices that would-be charter operators paid themselves and excessive technology purchases.

Recommendation: A school’s planning amount before an authorization is limited to $10,000. If justifiable expenses exceed that amount, they should only be compensated following authorization.

Proposed Selection Criterion for CMO Grants

ESSA places the following restriction on grants awarded to State Entities: No State entity may receive a grant under this section for use in a State in which a State entity is currently using a grant received under this section. However, ESSA is silent regarding the awarding of grants to CMOs. This has resulted in CMOs having several active grants at the same time, with new grants being issued without proper inspection of the efficacy of former grants. For example, it has resulted in the IDEA charter CMOreceiving six grants in a ten-year period totaling nearly $300 million. These grants occurred under a leadership structure that engaged in questionable practices, including the attempted yearly lease of a private jet, related-party transactions, and the rental of a luxury box at San Antonio Spurs games.

IDEA received two awards, in 2019 and 2020, totaling more than $188 million even as the 2019 audit of the Inspector General found that IDEA submitted incomplete and inaccurate reports on three prior grants. The IG report also looked at a randomly selected sample of expenses and found that IDEA’s charges to the grants did not always include only allowable and adequately documented non-personnel expenses.

Recommendations:

That department regulations disallow the awarding of grants to any CMO currently using a grant received under the CMO program and that for any grant exceeding $25 million, the Department’s OIG conducts an audit before an additional grant is awarded.

I don’t often ask the readers of this blog to do anything other than vote. I urge you to write the Department on behalf of these urgently needed reforms.

The deadline for comments is April 13, 2022.

Katherine Stewart has been writing for years about Christian nationalism and its pernicious influence on American society, especially public schools. Her latest book is The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous World of Religious Nationalists.

She wrote this article about the January 6 insurrection for The New York Times:

The most serious attempt to overthrow the American constitutional system since the Civil War would not have been feasible without the influence of America’s Christian nationalist movement. One year later, the movement seems to have learned a lesson: If it tries harder next time, it may well succeed in making the promise of American democracy a relic of the past.

Christian nationalist symbolism was all over the events of Jan. 6, as observers have pointed out. But the movement’s contribution to the effort to overturn the 2020 election and install an unelected president goes much deeper than the activities of a few of its representatives on the day that marks the unsuccessful end (or at least a temporary setback) of an attempted coup.

A critical precondition for Donald Trump’s attempt to retain the presidency against the will of the people was the cultivation of a substantial population of voters prepared to believe his fraudulent claim that the election was stolen — a line of argument Mr. Trump began preparing well before the election, at the first presidential debate.

The role of social and right-wing media in priming the base for the claim that the election was fraudulent is by now well understood. The role of the faith-based messaging sphere is less well appreciated. Pastors, congregations and the religious media are among the most trusted sources of information for many voters. Christian nationalist leaders have established richly funded national organizations and initiatives to exploit this fact. The repeated message that they sought to deliver through these channels is that outside sources of information are simply not credible. The creation of an information bubble, impervious to correction, was the first prerequisite of Mr. Trump’s claim.

The coup attempt also would not have been possible without the unshakable sense of persecution that movement leaders have cultivated among the same base of voters. Christian nationalism today begins with the conviction that conservative Christians are the most oppressed group in American society. Among leaders of the movement, it is a matter of routine to hear talk that they are engaged in a “battle against tyranny,” and that the Bible may soon be outlawed.

A final precondition for the coup attempt was the belief, among the target population, that the legitimacy of the United States government derives from its commitment to a particular religious and cultural heritage, and not from its democratic form. It is astonishing to many that the leaders of the Jan. 6 attack on the constitutional electoral process styled themselves as “patriots.” But it makes a glimmer of sense once you understand that their allegiance is to a belief in blood, earth and religion, rather than to the mere idea of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Given the movement’s role in laying the groundwork for the coup attempt, its leaders faced a quandary when Mr. Trump began to push his repeatedly disproven claims — and that quandary turned into a test of character on Jan. 6. Would they go along with an attempt to overthrow America’s democratic system?

Some attempted to rewrite the facts about Jan. 6. The former Republican Representative Michele Bachmann suggested the riot was the work of “paid rabble rousers,” while the activist and author Lance Wallnau, who has praised Mr. Trump as “God’s chaos candidate,” blamed “the local antifa mob.” Many leaders, like Charlie Kirk, appeared to endorse Mr. Trump’s claims about a fraudulent election. Others, like Michael Farris, president and chief executive of the religious right legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, provided indirect but no less valuable support by concern-trolling about supposed “constitutional irregularities” in battleground states.

None appeared willing to condemn Mr. Trump for organizing an attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. On the contrary, the Rev. Franklin Graham, writing on Facebook, condemned “these ten” from Mr. Trump’s “own party” who voted to impeach him and mused, “It makes you wonder what the thirty pieces of silver were that Speaker Pelosi promised for this betrayal.”

At Christian nationalist conferences I have been reporting on, I have heard speakers go out of their way to defend and even lionize the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. At the Road to Majority conference, which was held in Central Florida in June 2021, the author and radio host Eric Metaxas said, “The reason I think we are being so persecuted, why the Jan. 6 folks are being persecuted, when you’re over the target like that, oh my.” At that same conference, the political commentator Dinesh D’Souza, in conversation with the religious right strategist Ralph Reed, said, “The people who are really getting shafted right now are the Jan. 6 protesters,” before adding, “We won’t defend our guys even when they’re good guys.” Mr. Reed nodded in response and replied, “I think Donald Trump taught our movement a lot.”

Movement leaders now appear to be working to prime the base for the next attempt to subvert the electoral process. At dozens of conservative churches in swing states this past year, groups of pastors were treated to presentations by an initiative called Faith Wins. Featuring speakers like David Barton, a key figure in the fabrication of Christian nationalist myths about history, and led by Chad Connelly, a Republican political veteran, Faith Wins serves up elections skepticism while demanding that pastors mobilize their flocks to vote “biblical” values. “Every pastor you know needs to make sure 100 percent of the people in their pews are voting, and voting biblical values,” Mr. Connelly told the assembled pastors at a Faith Wins event in Chantilly, Va. in September.

“The church is not a cruise ship, the church is a battleship,” added Byron Foxx, an evangelist touring with Faith Wins. The Faith Wins team also had at its side Hogan Gidley, a deputy press secretary in the Trump White House, who now runs the Center for Election Integrity, an initiative of the America First Policy Institute, a group led in part by former members of the Trump administration. Mr. Gidley informed the gathering that his group is “nonpartisan” — and then went on to mention that in the last election cycle there were “A lot of rogue secretaries of state, a lot of rogue governors.”

He was presumably referring to Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia who earned the ire of Trumpists by rebuffing the former president’s request to find him an additional 11,780 votes. “You saw the stuff in Arizona, you’re going to see more stuff in Wisconsin, these are significant issues, and we can’t be dismissed out of hand anymore, the facts are too glaring,” Mr. Gidley said. In fact, the Republican-backed audit of votes in Arizona’s largest county confirmed that President Biden won Arizona by more votes than previously thought. But the persecution narrative is too politically useful to discard simply because it’s not true.

Even as movement leaders are preparing for a possible restoration of a Trumpist regime — a period they continue to regard as a golden age in retrospect — they are advancing in parallel on closely related fronts. Among the most important of these has to do with public education.

In the panic arising out of the claim that America’s schools are indoctrinating young children in critical race theory, or C.R.T., it isn’t hard to detect the ritualized workings of the same information bubble, persecution complex and sense of entitlement that powered the coup attempt. Whatever you make of the new efforts in state legislatures to impose new “anti-C.R.T.” restrictions on speech and teaching in public schools, the more important consequence is to extend the religious right’s longstanding program to undermine confidence in public education, an effort that religious right leaders see as essential both for the movement’s long-term funding prospects and for its antidemocratic agenda.

Opposition to public education is part of the DNA of America’s religious right. The movement came together in the 1970s not solely around abortion politics, as later mythmakers would have it, but around the outrage of the I.R.S. threatening to take away the tax-exempt status of church-led “segregation academies.” In 1979, Jerry Falwell said he hoped to see the day when there wouldn’t be “any public schools — the churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.”

Today, movement leaders have their eye on the approximately $700 billion that federal, state, and local governments spend yearly on education. The case of Carson v. Makin, which is before the Supreme Court this term and involves a challenge, in Maine, to prohibitions on using state tuition aid to attend religious schools, could force taxpayers to fund sectarian schools no matter how discriminatory their policies or fanatical their teachings. The endgame is to get a chunk of this money with the help either of state legislatures or the Supreme Court, which in its current configuration might well be convinced that religious schools have a right to taxpayer funds.

This longstanding anti-public school agenda is the driving force behind the movement’s effort to orchestrate the anti-C.R.T. campaign. The small explosions of hate detonating in public school boards across the nation are not entirely coming from the grass roots up. The Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based Christian right policy group, recently held an online School Board Boot Camp, a four-hour training session providing instruction on how to run for school boards and against C.R.T. and to recruit others to do so. The Bradley Foundation, Heritage Action for America, and The Manhattan Institute are among those providing support for groups on the forefront of the latest public school culture wars.

A decade ago, the radical aims at the ideological core of the Christian nationalist movement were there to see for anybody who looked. Not many bothered to look, and those who did were often dismissed as alarmist. More important, most Republican Party leaders at the time distanced themselves from theocratic extremists. They avoided the rhetoric of Seven Mountains dominionism, an ideology that calls explicitly for the domination of the seven “peaks” of modern civilization (including government and education) by Christians of the correct, supposedly biblical variety.

What a difference a decade makes. National organizations like the Faith & Freedom Coalition and the Ziklag Group, which bring together prominent Republican leaders with donors and religious right activists, feature “Seven Mountains” workshops and panels at their gatherings. Nationalist leaders and their political dependents in the Republican Party now state quite openly what before they whispered to one another over their prayer breakfasts. Whether the public will take notice remains to be seen.

Tonight, February 3 at 3 p.m. (EST), Public Funds Public Schools and the Network for Public Education are co-sponsoring a Zoom discussion between Nancy MacLean and me about the privatization of public schools.

You can register here.

All are welcome and there is no fee to attend.

The Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS) webinar series continues on February 3 with a very special event: “Public Education in Chains: The Road to Privatization of Our Nation’s Schools.” The webinar features Dr. Nancy MacLean, award-winning American historian and author of Democracy in Chains, in conversation with Dr. Diane Ravitch, President of the Network for Public Education.

PFPS webinars explore issues related to private school vouchers and the campaign’s goal of ensuring public funds are used to maintain, support, and strengthen public schools. This webinar is co-sponsored by the Network for Public Education.