Archives for category: U.S. Department of Education

Maurice Cunningham, a retired professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, is a specialist on the subject of Dark Money. That’s money given to a group or campaign where the donor’s name is hidden. His most recent book is Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization.

Cunningham was instrumental in the defeat of a referendum in Massachusetts in 2016 to expand the number of charter schools. Early polling showed it would pass easily. But Cunningham dug into the funders and discovered that the proposition was funded by billionaires, including the Waltons and Bloomberg. He learned of an astroturf parent group called the National Parents Union, funded by the Waltons to promote charters and pretend there was a huge parent demand for them. The proposition was overwhelmingly defeated.

Imagine his surprise when he learned recently that the U.S. Department of Education was creating a Nation Parents & Families Council, and the National Parents Union was a member. He wrote to Secretary Miguel Cardona to express his concern that NPU was a Walton-funded astroturf group whose goal was to discredit public schools and promote charter schools.

He received a boilerplate response from the U.S. Department of Education’s communications office, dismissing his concerns.

Maurice T. Cunningham Maurice.Cunningham153@gmail.com


Dear Mr. Cunningham,
August 1, 2022


Thank you for your email to Secretary Miguel Cardona regarding National Parents Union (NPU) representation on the Department of Education’s (the Department) National Parents & Families Engagement Council (the Council). Your letter has been forwarded to the Office of Communications and Outreach and I am pleased to respond.
The Department acknowledges your concern and appreciates the in-depth information shared from your research regarding NPU. The Council is an opportunity for the Department to listen, learn and engage families and caregivers and will be a channel for parents and families to constructively participate in their children’s education. The goal of the Council is to be reflective of the diversity of the country and our public schools and the Department is open and accepting of all parent voices.
Again, thank you for your concern regarding organizations participating on the Council. Please know that the Department’s commitment to all parents, and their crucial role in their children’s education, is unwavering. The Secretary and staff here at the Department will continue to not just listen to parents but seek out their counsel and feedback because a school community works best when parents and educators are working together.
Sincerely,
/S/
Kelly Leon
Press Secretary, Office of Communications and Outreach, Delegated the Authority to Perform the
Functions and Duties of the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Communications and Outreach

Undeterred, Cunningham wrote another letter, going into greater detail.

MAURICE T. CUNNINGHAM, PhD, JD

August 16, 2022

The Honorable Miguel Cardona

Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20202

Ms. Kelly Leon, Press Secretary, Office of Communications and Outreach

U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary Cardona and Ms. Leon:

I am in receipt of Ms. Leon’s August 1, 2022 reply to my letter to Secretary Cardona of June 28, 2022 in which I detail some of my research showing that National Parents Union does not belong on the Department of Education’s National Parents and Families Engagement Council. Ms. Leon’s response, which simply recites boilerplate about the council seeking to solicit the views of parent, is disappointing and inadequate. National Parents Union is not a parents’ organization at all. That’s the point.

I would have thought that an organization like NPU that was founded in 2020 and almost immediately received $700,000 in funding from the Vela Education Fund, a joint venture of the Charles Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, might elicit DOE’s curiosity as to NPU’s authenticity. The WFF and individual Walton family members have been involved in school privatization efforts for years. WalMart, the company inherited by the family, is one of the most virulently anti-labor corporations in the world. As the labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein writes, WFF is “the single largest source of funding for the ‘school choice’ movement and a powerful advocate of charter schools and voucher initiatives.” The Waltons’ support for privatization is an entirely ideological project, based on a desire to enhance the social and cultural value of a free market in which government is weak while public goods like . . . education . . . are the fodder for entrepreneurial transformation. . . . Since public schools are by far the most pervasive of public institutions, and highly unionized to boot, this “$700-plus-billion-a-year industry”—John Walton’s phrase—has been a good place to start.

Charles Koch came to K-12 privatization only in recent years, announcing his intentions in a 2018 Koch Seminar in which another Koch network member ($100,000 required simply to attend) called K-12 privatization “low-hanging fruit.” As reported by the Washington Post’s James Hohmann, “Making a long-term play, the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and his like-minded friends on the right are increasingly focused on melding the minds of the next generation by making massive, targeted investments in both K-12 and higher education.” The Koch network “dreamed . . . of breaking the teachers unions.” Charles Koch, skeptical for years about impacting K-12, had a Koch Industries vice-president named Meredith Olson investigate, and her strategic scheme spurred him on.

Meredith Olson is also important because by June 2019 Koch and WFF (both members of Stand Together) were announcing matching $5 million investments in a joint venture named “4.0”to “transform America’s education system” in their corporate image. Ms. Olson was K-12 Initiative Vice President at Stand Together. More importantly for considering the legitimacy of NPU, Ms. Olson is CEO and a board member of Vela Education Foundation. As her LinkedIn page shows, Ms. Olson is an oil and gas executive. She has no background in or understanding of education. She would have been responsible for the $700,000grant Vela made in August 2020 to NPU—an eight month old organization with no track record in grants administration.

Charles Koch’s “interest” in education was discussed on the podcast “Have You Heard” by Christopher Leonard, author of the best-selling Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America. Leonard described Charles Koch, like the Waltons, as an ideological libertarian. Leonard confirmed Koch’s intense anti-unionism and continued: “when you have public education … one of the biggest problems for the libertarians is that it’s funded through taxes. . . they see taxation truly as a form of of (sic) theft and robbery.” An extensive remark by Leonard is worth your careful consideration:

Know what the blueprint is. The Koch influence machine is multifaceted and complex and I am just telling you in a very honest way, there’s a huge difference between the marketing materials produced by Americans for Prosperity (Koch’s political organization, a parallel to NPU) and the behind the scenes actual politicalphilosophy. There’s a huge difference. And here’s the actual political philosophy. Government is bad. Public education must be destroyed for the good of all American citizens in this view.

So the ultimate goal is to dismantle the public education system entirely and replace it with a privately run education system, which the operatives in this group believe in a sincere way is better for everybody. Now, whether you agree with that or not as the big question, but we cannot have any doubt, there’s going to be a lot of glossy marketing materials about opportunity, innovation, efficiency. At its core though the the (sic) network seeks to dismantle the public education system because they see it as destructive. So that is what’s the actual aim of this group. And don’t let them tell you anything different.

One person who is not fooled by the Koch network’s PR machine is Charles Siler and that is because he was once part of it as a lobbyist and communications expert for the Goldwater Institute and Foundation for Government Accountability. Siler describes his former bosses: “Their ideal is a world with as minimal public infrastructure and investment as possible. They want the weakest and leanest government possible in order to protect the interests of a few wealthy individuals and families . . .” Siler describes one public relations technique as the “human shield.” Privatizers front a vulnerable and politically sympathetic population to protect them from progressive criticisms. They also understand that public schools are enormously popular. Thus, their proxies employ a steady drumbeat of messaging about “failing schools.” The goals are the same: destroy unions, strangle public schools, and privatizeeducation.

National Parents Union is a vehicle for the plans of the Waltons and Charles Koch. It presents as representing parents of color in search of a better life for their children, right out of the playbook Siler describes. The NPU team is drawn from alumni of the failed Families for Excellent Schools/Great Schools Massachusetts operations in New York and Massachusetts and as I explain in Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization FES was in reality the surrogate for Boston hedge funders and yes, the Waltons. NPU has used the Vela money to fund homeschooling pods that weaken public schools. At nearly every media opportunity, NPU spokespersons parrot the “failing schools” script.

Is there any conceivable reason to believe that National Parents Union is the blessed exception to the Waltons’ and Charles Koch’s laser-like focus on destroying public education? As Siler and Leonard teach us, DOE must ignore the elaborate marketing blitz that NPU can deploy and recognize NPU for what it is: an agent of wealthy libertarians with a wildly different and unpopular prescription for what is good for parents and children.

I understand that the council is on hold pending litigation brought by among others Parents Defending Education. As I explained in my letter of June 28, PDE is also a franchise in Charles Koch’s attack on public education. It is in alliance with Moms for Liberty, created by the right wing directorate Council for National Policy; and with Fight for Schools and Families, also a plaintiff in the litigation and headed by a former Trump administration and Republican Party communications executive. Should PDE prevail in its lawsuit and gain a seat on the council that would give Koch two seats on it. Even Betsy DeVos would blush.

The Department of Education should rescind its offer to National Parents Union to join the National Parents and Families Engagement Council.

Respectfully submitted,

Maurice T. Cunningham

Associate Professor (retired)

Department of Political Science

University of Massachusetts at Boston

cc: The Honorable Martin J. Walsh

Secretary of Labor

You can see the writing on the wall. All the astroturf parent groups will demand a place at the table. They fought masking, they fought vaccines, now they fight teaching about racism and gender, and they demand gag orders and book banning.

Will Secretary Cardona invite them to join his Council?

The Brookings Institution reported on a big increase in federal funding for technical assistance for community schools along with the priorities for funding. Unlike charter schools, community schools operate under the supervision of public school boards; they are not operated or owned by private entrepreneurs; they seek to strengthen public educations, not compete with it or replace it. Unlike the federal Charter Schools Program, which provides $400 million + in start-up funds, the funding for community schools is for technical assistance, not basic costs. The CSP has been riddled by waste, fraud, and abuse, and many federally funded charters never open.

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced a notice inviting applications for the Full-Service Community Schools Program to provide high-quality academic, integrated health and social service, and engagement support for all students. The grant program continues to reflect steady increases in the federal appropriations process from an initial $5 million in fiscal year 2009, to $25 million in 2020, $30 million in 2021, $75 million in 2022, and a proposed substantial increase of $468 million in 2023. The exponential growth in investments signals a consistent interest and confidence in community school strategies as a powerful approach to whole-child educational transformation of schools and communities. Similarly, dedicated state funding opportunities in Maryland, New York, and Californiareflect a growing body of evidence from decades of implementation expertise about how community school strategies—when supported and sustained—can leverage the assets and voices of the full community to support student success.

The Community School Forward national task force welcomes this support of community schools as a strategy to increase youth and community voice, ensure rigorous community-connected instruction, extend learning opportunities and improve school climate, health, and mental health, and college and post-secondary student outcomes. The task force recognizes that while funding is necessary to continue to accelerate the growth of community schools, increasing it alone will not directly result in effective community school partnerships and strategies. High-quality technical assistance must be provided to practitioners. The task force project team developed a national needs assessment to gain a clearer picture of what type of community school technical assistance is needed across the country.

WHAT DOES COMMUNITY SCHOOL TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE ENTAIL?

The Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools (NCCS) is a practice-based technical assistance provider that has supported the startup, scaling, and sustainability of community school initiatives across the country and internationally, NCCS has seen what happens with (and without) strong and consistent guidance and capacity building. We define technical assistance as the process of building the capacity of community school stakeholders to start, scale, and sustain transformational community schools. Informed by a comprehensive needs and assets assessment and guided by a plan jointly developed with the client, technical assistance includes organizing communities of action, facilitating connections, and providing the relevant tools and skills.

In early 2022, in anticipation of technical assistance needs of new and developing community school practitioners, NCCS—in partnership with the Brookings Institution, the Learning Policy Institute, and the Coalition for Community Schools—conducted an assessment of community school practitioners and experts to gauge emerging needs and best practices in implementing community schools and technical assistance. The findings of our inquiry provide important guidance for the Full-Service Community Schools program and other initiatives focused on expanding and deepening effective community school strategies. In our report, “Community Schools Forward: Technical assistance needs assessment,” we summarize the findings of a national study exploring community school technical assistance needs and assets and recommend that technical assistance providers prioritize:

  • Model clarity for all stakeholders – ensuring all stakeholders have the same conceptual understanding of community schools and their role within the model.
  • Structures and systems for community voices – developing mechanisms that invite democratic processes within a community school.
  • Structures and systems for collaborativeleadership – systems and processes that reinforce distributed leadership and collaborative decisionmaking.
  • Asset-based thinking – cultivating a perspective that focuses on the strengths of the students, families, and community.
  • Sustainability – navigating braided funding and “telling the story” to public and private funders in a way that accurately reflects the work; developing a model or network that is supported by the community and leadership, and not vulnerable to leadership changes.
  • Reimagining systems for equity – reviewing existing school processes and structures to determine if the current approach is meeting all student, family, and community needs. Changing those systems that are not meeting the needs of all stakeholders.
  • Data systems – developing systems for data collection and analysis that capture accurate data that is connected to identified outcomes and is aligned with a logic model.
  • Data culture and continuous improvement – creating a positive and collaborative environment where problems can be identified and solved using data and inquiry.

Additionally in our report, practitioners shared the most impactful strategies that community school decisionmakers and partners can prioritize as part of their developmental process.

Read the full report.

Carol Burris has followed closely the development and passage of regulations written by the U.S. Department of Education for federally-funded charter schools. The regulations, she believes, are reasonable and intended to assure that charters funded by the federal government are held to standards of transparency, honesty, and accountability.

She was taken aback to learn that rightwing groups have filed suit to block the regulations. Apparently, those filing the suit think that charters should get federal money without any oversight.

She writes about it here.

Those who want a wild west of unregulated charter schools never give up. A right-wing legal defense firm called the Pacific Legal Foundation has teamed up with the Michigan charter lobby and The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation to stop the reasonable rules of the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the Department has no right to make rules regarding the program.

Here are other lawsuits in which Pacific Legal is engaging:

· Fighting minimum wages for those who wish to move up the ladder at Texas Wally Burgers and Dairy Queens.

· Fighting opportunities for businesses of color to get some competitive advantage in obtaining government contracts after years of discrimination.

· Fighting attempts by three competitive Boston schools to expand enrollment opportunities for under-represented students of color by allotting spots by zip code.

The two plaintiffs, the Michigan Association of Public School Academies and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, have vested financial interests in charter growth. Fordham is an authorizer of charter schools in Ohio, taking 3% of all the taxpayer dollars that the charters receive for providing “oversight.”

The argument, in its essence, is that the Department does not have the right to set up new conditions beyond what is memorialized in ESSA. If that is so, then when De Vos permitted state entities to distribute money to charter schools from their CSP grants for purposes beyond the opening and expansion of charters during the pandemic, she would have been in violation, too. Here is New York’s redistribution request that was granted. CSP funds were used for a “pandemic response,” as Betsy De Vos approved, without Congress’s permission. If the charter lobby wins this frivolous lawsuit designed to bully the Department into kowtowing to charters, perhaps taxpayers should sue to claw all of the money De Vos distributed back from charter schools.

Finally, I wonder why organizations that claim they fight for charter schools to help low-income kids succeed would run to a law firm that fights minimum wages, reduces disadvantaged kids’ chances of getting into a competitive high school, and roll back opportunities for minority-owned businesses. Perhaps their agenda has nothing to do with children at all.

Carol Burris knows every detail of the U.S. Department of Education’s new regulations for charter schools. She has studied them closely and written about what they mean. They are a reasonable effort to create accountability for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars a year on charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program began in 1994 as a $4 million annual fund to start new charter schools. In the nearly three decades since then, the program has grown (in response to the powerful charter lobby) to $440 million a year. The program, until now, has been unregulated. It has been riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse. As two well-documented reports (see here and here) by the Network for Public Education demonstrated, a large number of charters received federal funding but never opened or closed soon after opening. While the original intent of the program was to jumpstart small, teacher-led or mom-and-pop charters, the program grew into a slush fund for big charter chains, grifters, and slick, for-profit entrepreneurs.

The U.S. Department of Education wisely decided it was time to set some rules. Federal funding comes with rules.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg knows none of this context. He recently wrote (or one of his aides wrote) an uninformed article in the Washington Post about the Department’s new regulations for the Federal Charter School Program. He falsely claimed that the regulations were a “victory” for the charter industry, even though the charter industry fought the regulations vigorously. Bloomberg’s article was a lame attempt to put a happy face on a major defeat for the charter lobbyists.

Carol Burris responded:

Michael Bloomberg embarrassed himself with his recent op-ed published in the Washington Post entitled “Charter School Change is a Victory for Children.” It would appear that given the efforts and funding that his organization put into blocking Charter School Program reforms, he now feels the need to take an unearned victory lap.

Bloomberg begins his op-ed by thanking the Biden Administration for listening to parents and editorialists—like himself. After participating in the month-long hate fest that claimed the President was “at war with charter schools,” he and his allies at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools are likely eager to creep out of the doghouse.

In addition to its heated rhetoric insulting the President and telling Secretary Cardona to back off, the charter lobby deliberately spread misinformation regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s then-proposed Charter School Program reforms. They falsely claimed that over-enrollment in district schools and cooperation with a public school district were prerequisites to obtaining CSP funding. Bloomberg used his influence to write op-eds that parroted the campaign of misinformation.

As I explained here in the Washington Post Answer Sheet, neither claim was valid. Now, Bloomberg once again twists the truth with three additional false narratives in his recent op-ed.

The first is as follows.

“The Department of Education’s original proposal could have prevented public charter schools with long wait lists from expanding or replicating if the district schools were under-enrolled.”

This was inaccurate when he first wrote it and is still untrue. Under-enrollment was an example of one of the ways charter schools could demonstrate need. Waiting lists, special missions, and other ways to show need were always allowed. This was clarified by the Department long before the final regulations were published.

The second false claim in his op-ed is:

“It [proposed regulations] would have prioritized funding for public charter schools that enter into formal contracts with district schools, making charters dependent on the good will and good faith of schools that may see them as competitors.”

Mr. Bloomberg better check again.

Priority 2 (charter/district cooperation) is still in the regulations as an invitational priority this year. Invitational is one of three levels of priority. The proposed regulations never stated which level priority 2 would have. The priority, by being retained, also opens the door for priority 2 to become a higher priority in the coming years.

And finally:

“And it would have restricted public charters from receiving early implementation funding that can be crucial to the process of opening a school. The proposal was amended to prevent those outcomes.”

The amendment he refers to (see below) was a change without distinction. Those implementation funds cannot be used; therefore, the original restriction, for all intents and purposes, is still intact.

This is the minor change between the proposed and final regulations, as explained by the Department here.

“We amended Assurance (f) to remove the requirement that applicants provide an assurance that they will not “use or provide” implementation funds for a charter school until after the eligible applicant has received an approved charter and secured a facility so that applicants are required only to provide an assurance that they will not “use” implementation funds prior to receiving an approved charter and securing a facility.”

If the schools cannot use the funds, whether or not they are “provided” is irrelevant.

I do not know who penned this op-ed for Mr. Bloomberg. But I do know this. His buddies at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, likely with his financial support, spent a king’s ransom trying to get the U.S. Department of Education to scrap or delay the regulations. In the process, they alienated members of Congress, especially powerful House Appropriations Chair Rosa De Lauro, as well as members of the Department. Their campaign was relentless, nasty, and very expensive.

But in the world of Michael Bloomberg, the truth is flexible, and he can use the influence derived from his fortune to put in print whatever “truth” suits his purpose.

However, those of us who have followed this carefully know the deal. As charter devotee, Jeanne Allen tweeted to the National Alliance’s Nina Rees, who was also trying to claim victory, “You should probably read thoroughly the final CSP #charterschool rules. All 135 pages. Not only did nothing really change, but the explanations make it worse than it was to start.”

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

Dear Friends,

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

On July 1, those efforts paid off.

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

Here are the significant gains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now help us get the word out with these “click to tweets” below.

And remember, none of this is possible without your support. Please give to the Network for Public Education today.

You can post this email using this link: https://networkforpubliceducation.org/u-s-ed-department-finalizes-tough-new-charter-regulations/

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.

Maurice Cunningham is a political scientist who recently retired from the University of Massachusetts. He recently published Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization.

When he learned that the U.S. Department of Education had included the National Parents Union on its list of parent organizations advising the Department, he wrote the following letter to Secretary Cardona:

June 28, 2022

Secretary Miguel Cardona
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary Cardona,

The Department of Education has made a significant error in including the National Parents Union among the groups invited to participate in the National Parents and Families Engagement Council. NPU does not represent parents and has few if any parent organizations as members. It is a front operation for the policy preferences of wealthy individuals who wish to transform American education to meet their ideological preferences, political goals, to keep their own taxes low, and to profit off what Rupert Murdoch has termed a $500 billion market.

I am very familiar with National Parents Union. As a recently retired professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and the author of Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) I have been researching groups like NPU since 2015 and continue to do so.

Since NPU is related to a group I was already following named Massachusetts Parents United (the leader of both groups is Keri Rodrigues) I took note when a concept paper for the new group surfaced in April 2019, appealing to the Walton Family Foundation for funding (WFF is the primary sponsor of MPU, over $2.2 million from 2017 through 2020). The concept paper listed three goals. First, to impact the 2020 Democratic Party nominating process. Second, to support “dozens of organizations (that) are building strong pockets of parent power.” Third, “to take on the unions in the national and regional media, and eventually on the ground in advocacy fights.”

National Parents Union does not now and never has published a list of its member parent organizations. However I researched this question for my book based upon organizations NPU was claiming as participants to its January 2020 founding convention, primarily in claims made on Twitter and other social media. On its website NPU was claiming to be “a network of highly effective parent organizations and grassroots activists.” I collected seventy organizations or activists that seemed to be part of an organization. I created categories for different types of organizations and was able to categorize 64 of the 70 organizations. Only four of them even purported to represent parents. There were 15 charter school organizations and nine charter school trade organizations. There were another 15organizations I categorized as education options/choice, groups which present as helping navigate among different schools but which are designed to funnel students to charter schools. That makes 39 organizations tied in to the charter schools industry. There are nineteen organizations I identified as “civic” and some I could further identify, for instance civic/Latinx, civic/civil rights, civic/autism, etc. Within the civic groups that could be identified, there were four I categorized as civic/parents.

I was able to locate primary state locations for 53 of the 70 organizations. Of those I could place in states, there are 22 states represented plus the District of Columbia. The Massachusetts parent organization was MPU, the Walton operation. The Minnesota parent organization incorporated about the same time as NPU did. The other two parent organizations were also doubtful.

NPU’s arrival was announced in a January 2020 story in U.S. News and World Report, heralding “Two Latina mothers from opposite sides of the country” starting a parents group to “disrupt” education. One founder, Alma Marquez of California, disappeared from the organization about 8 months later. Ms. Rodrigues, known in her days as a radio host in the heavily Portuguese city of Fall River as the “pint-sized Portuguese pundit” remains.

Even with Ms. Marquez gone it is difficult to sort out NPU’s real leadership. At the January 2020 meeting Ms. Marquez was elected to a three year term as secretary-treasurer. She was a director in filings with the Massachusetts Secretary of State but left by March 2021. In March 2021 the National Parents Union website listed three board members: Peter Cunningham, Bibb Hubbard, and Dan Weisberg. But NPU registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation with the Secretary of State in Massachusetts where its annual report filed November 1, 2020 showed two directors: Keri Rodrigues and Tim Langan. The Secretary filings listed Ms. Rodrigues as president and clerk and Tim Langan as treasurer (he was chief operating officer on the website). In January 2020 Gerard Robinson was also listed as a founding director, but he left a year later. Ms. Hubbard is also gone and filings with the Secretary have been updated but still do not match the website.

Of the founding directors and officers, Mr. Cunningham, Ms. Hubbard, Mr. Weisberg, Ms. Marquez, and Ms. Rodrigues all were communications professionals or had significant experience in public relations. Ms. Rodrigues, always billed as a parent activist, has been a communications professional for nearly a quarter of a century, since commencing her career with CBS Radio in 1998 while completing her 2000 BS in Broadcast, Telecommunications, and Media Management from Temple University. Since 2014 she has been executive vice president – strategy and communications for Democrats for EducationReform in Boston, state director of Families for Excellent Schools, president of the IRC 501(c)(4) Massachusetts Parent Action and 501(c)(3) Massachusetts Parents United, and president of IRC 501(c)(3) National Parents Union. Corporate records indicate that she and Mr. Langan (to whom she is engaged) are the principals of the Estrella Group LLC, a political consultant firm. Across the two state and one national organizations they paid themselves over $626,000 in 2020—an atypical income for working parents.

NPU has a page where one can “find your delegate.” Delegate suggests that someone has been chosen by others to represent them. But I cannot find where NPU explains what their delegates do and it appears that delegates are not chosen by parents (or the mostly non-existent parent organizations) but from the top down, by NPU itself. For example in Massachusetts—the corporate headquarters of NPU and MPU—when NPU wanted to find a state “delegate” it advertised for someone to become “an official Massachusetts delegate” on Twitter!* (* indicates material in Addendum).

No, National Parents Union is not about parents at all.

To understand NPU, follow the money. The Walton Family Foundation funneled $400,000 to NPU in 2020 through MPU.The Vela Education Fund, a joint venture of the Walton Family Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute, invested $700,000.The CEO of Vela is an oil and gas executive from Koch’s corporate holdings. Other donors include the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and The City Fund, which receives funding from the Waltons, the Hastings Fund, and the Arnold Foundation. Reed Hastings has called for the abolition of school boards. John Arnold is most well-known for his campaign to gut workers’ pension plans.

Most parents have taken tickets at the high school football game or baked goods to be sold at intermission of the school play. Not many have started a little parents’ organization that collected $1,481,110 in its first year. NPU paid out $400,461 in grants and had a payroll of $634,273. In October 2021 the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced a grant of $1,500,000 to support NPU—an organization that had not existed less than two years before. Also in 2021 the Silicon Valley Community Foundation donated $1,500,000 to NPU. SVCF is a donor advised fund, a pass through that protects the identity of the ultimate check writer. It’s deep dark money—the true source of the $1,500,000 will never be known. But it isn’t parents.

Small wonder then that since its inception NPU has retained the services of top conservative and Walton Family pollster Echelon Insights and the international communications firm Mercury LLC. Just like any other infant parents group.

NPU affects a different posture than recently founded “parents” operations that have attacked Critical Race Theory and LGBTQ youth. NPU purports to speak up for people of color (as did Families for Excellent Schools, which was driven by the Waltons and wealthy Wall Streeters). Scratch the surface though and NPU’s billionaire-driven agenda appears. NPU has been happy to surf on the turmoil created by right wing attack groups with its own “Disrupt the Status Quo—School Board Edition” campaign, and after the victory of Glenn Youngkin in Virginiaoffered by tweet to work with Leader Kevin McCarthy and the House Republicans on a Parents Bill of Rights. Ms. Rodrigueshas appeared at a forum organized by Betsy Devos’s American Federation for Children and just recently on a panel with Governor Youngkin’s Secretary of Education. In a Twitter exchange with a friendly journalist who was doubting the level of “School Board Chaos” being created by right wing groups, she responded “Depends on the type of chaos we are talking about.”*

That remark may help illuminate a paradox of the recently contrived “parents” movement: why is Charles Koch funding both the “progressive” NPU and the white backlash Parents Defending Education? And the answer is that both groups are designed to create chaos in the public education system. Chaos is the product.

As a “parent” group NPU is mostly distinguished by a lack of parents. It will produce polling information but as you understand interest group polling is going to show what the interest group wants you to see. NPU has had substantial media success—with the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, and Fox—but it’s worth asking yourself: how do two moms on opposite coasts afford Mercury LLC to run communications?

DOE should be working with real parents, not billionaire directed right wing fronts masquerading as parents. If the department wishes to hear the viewpoints of the Waltons, Gates, Koch et al., heavens knows they have access to key policy makers. DOE should not permit them to sneak in the door masquerading as parents.

Sincerely,

 

Maurice T. Cunningham

 

 

The American Federation of Teachers released the following statement about the U.S. Department of Education’s proposals to reform the federal Charter Schools Program, which grants $440 million annually to open or expand charter schools. Authorized in 1994, when there were a small number of charter schools, the CSP has never been reformed in its nearly three decade history. The industry captured the program and glossed over widespread waste, fraud, and abuse in federally-funded charter schools.

The AFT wrote:

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 20

Contact:
Andrew Crook
607/280-6603
acrook@aft.org
AFT Responds to Department of Education on Charter School Regulations

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sent the following letter to the U.S. Department of Education responding to proposed regulations on Charter Schools Program grants.

The text of the letter follows, and it can be read online with additional footnoting and formatting here.

~April 11, 2022

Ms. Porscheoy Brice

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20202-5970

Dear Ms. Brice,

The American Federation of Teachers welcomes the opportunity to comment on the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations to the Charter Schools Program grant programs. These proposed regulations represent a positive development for America’s children, and if fully implemented, these improvements to the Charter Schools Program grant applications will not only advance equity, but also move to restore charter schools to their original purpose by integrating them into the broader education community.

We applaud the department’s proposed regulations, which seek to improve community integration of charter schools. We also applaud the department for taking steps to prevent for-profit charter schools—which studies have shown underperform, compared with both public schools and their nonprofit counterparts—from receiving charter school grants. These steps will undoubtedly improve educational outcomes for children in both charter and traditional public schools. As a union of 1.7 million educators, healthcare workers and public service workers, including educators at more than 250 charter schools, we appreciate that the department is seeking to increase collaboration between charters schools and traditional public schools

The AFT strongly supports the department’s collaboration priority:

We appreciate that the department is recognizing the need for collaboration between charter schools and district schools. Charter schools were originally intended to be vehicles for experimentation and collaboration, not walled gardens within our education system, and these proposed regulations reflect that the charter industry has strayed from that original intent. As a union of education professionals, we have concerns over the pervasiveness of noncompete and nondisclosure agreement practices in charter schools and the chilling effect that such agreements are already having on charter-district collaboration. 

We recommend that the Charter Schools Program grant applications be modified to have applicants certify that they will void all such noncompete/nondisclosure provisions, if they exist, during the life of the grant.

Noncompete clauses, which prevent charter teachers from taking jobs in traditional public schools for a set period of time (or within a geographic region proximate to the charter school), are obvious barriers to the department’s proposed priority of fostering district-charter collaboration. For example, according to Donald Cohen and Allen Mikaelian’s recently released book The Privatization of Everything, Summit Academy Schools of Ohio sued 50 teachers in three years for violating noncompete clauses.

There have been repeated suggestions that, beyond chilling collaboration, nondisclosure agreements prevented charter school teachers from blowing the whistle on fraud and malfeasance occurring at their schools.

We would ask that, in support of this priority, the CSP grant application be modified to include a certification by applicants that they either 1) do not utilize nondisclosure agreements and/or noncompete agreements at their schools, or 2) will void all such agreements for the life of the grant.

Collaboration between district schools and charter schools would be enhanced by putting district schools and charters on the same footing with respect to enrollment requirements:

Practices at certain charter schools have the effect of filtering out some subpopulations of students, leading to the concentration of higher-needs students in district schools. This behavior includes the counseling out of special education students; the use of entrance barriers that disincentivize enrollments of English language learners, low-income students and students with disabilities; and a reluctance to backfill when students leave the charter school. Charter schools that create enrollment barriers for ELLs, students with disabilities and low-income students are often already doing so in violation of federal law, but other disparate policies are not currently unlawful. The interests of district-charter collaboration would be furthered by asking applicants to disclose whether they engage in discriminatory enrollment practices.

Practices that exclude certain students from charter schools create divisions between district and charter teachers and administrators. In our experience, the prevalence of these practices varies significantly across the country and is unfortunately common in some states. The ACLU examined charter school enrollment barriers statewide in both Arizona and California, finding that more than 20 percent of California charter schools and 50 percent of surveyed Arizona charter schools utilized exclusionary enrollment practices.

These practices included denying applicants on the basis of prior academic performance, requiring application fees, capping special education enrollments, discouraging immigrant applicants and requiring parent volunteer hours.

While many exclusionary charter application practices amount to violations of the letter or spirit of the law (or both), charter schools are permitted under federal law to decline to backfill student vacancies created as a result of a student withdrawal or expulsion. When charter schools refuse to backfill vacancies, it both compounds existing student population disparities between district and charter schools and creates new ones. Student mobility is associated with lower student performance, so limiting midyear entrants gives charter schools an advantage that comes at the expense of the district schools that are required to accept all enrollments.

To preserve the department’s proposed priority of fostering district-charter collaboration, we suggest amending the proposed regulations to request that charter school applicants disclose information about their application, selection, turnover and backfilling practices. Specifically, applicants should certify that application materials are available in all languages spoken in the community; that they do not cap the number of students with a disability (or the type of students with a disability they accept); and that they do not charge a fee for applicants. If applicants currently operate charter schools, they should disclose annual student turnover figures for the past five years. The regulations should also be modified so that charter school applicants disclose whether they use admissions tests, consider past academic or behavioral issues during admissions, and backfill vacancies either midyear or between school years, and they should require applicants to disclose how they have recruited students from diverse populations across their catchment areas.

Unions can help facilitate a collaborative school atmosphere, and regulations should be modified to reward applicants who pledge to support their workers’ right to organize:

Collaboration between district school and charter school teachers would be easier if both groups were on the same professional footing. Unfortunately charter school teachers are often underpaid, and turnover in the industry is alarmingly high. Some charter schools operate with teaching staffs that are largely uncredentialed. Many operators in the charter school industry seem to have abandoned any attempt at employee retention, choosing instead to focus on building recruitment “pipelines” to solve the rapid turnover of their teaching force. The department’s laudable goal of fostering collaboration between district and charter schools will be difficult in high-turnover conditions and where significant disparities exist between district school and charter school staff.

We have seen, however, how beneficial it can be when charter and district teachers belong to the same union. In Chicago, several charter schools in the city are organized with the Chicago Teachers Union, with charter and district teachers belonging to the same union. The Chicago Teachers Union QUEST Center brings together both charter and district teachers for professional development courses. Unions can be the space where collaboration across district schools and charter schools can occur—but when charter teachers want to organize a union, their school management often stands in the way. In furtherance of the department’s stated goal of district-charter collaboration, as envisioned within these proposed regulations, we submit that the proposed regulations should be modified to reward schools that pledge not to interfere with teachers who wish to exercise their rights to organize and bargain collectively.

The AFT respectfully requests that language be inserted into the grant application to allow applicants to make a good-faith certification that they will remain neutral in any union organizing effort for the term of the grant award.

We applaud the department on the introduction of a community impact analysis and recommend a few minor improvements:

The AFT supports provisions that would have applicants analyze the impact of charter expansion on the schools that the applicant is, or would be, drawing students from. The focus on preventing charter school expansion from undermining district desegregation efforts is a welcome metric, and we are pleased to see it included in the impact analysis. We would suggest that the regulations be expanded to include an analysis on the fiscal impact of proposed charter growth.

Charter school growth is universally understood to negatively affect the financial condition of the sending districts. Credit ratings agencies and academia have reached a consensus on this point. The ratings agency Moody’s has opined that charter school growth can drag down the finances of their host districts, writing that “charter schools can pull students and revenues away from districts faster than the districts can reduce their costs.” Districts, being unable to reduce costs as quickly as they lose funding for charter schools, are left with diminished resources for students in their public schools. That finding has been bolstered by academic research, which has endeavored to estimate the net fiscal impact of charter school growth on district finances.

While charter school proponents have suggested that charter competition will improve district resources, academic and credit rating agency opinion has coalesced around the opposite conclusion.

Moody’s has said that “A city that begins to lose students to a charter school can be forced to weaken educational programs because funding is tighter, which then begins to encourage more students to leave which then results in additional losses.’’ University of Michigan researcher David Arsen has conducted research in Michigan that supports this conclusion, noting that “contrary to expectations, Michigan school districts respond to charter competition by devoting a smaller share of their spending to instructional services.”6 Faced with decreased revenues, which “decline more rapidly than costs in districts losing students to charter schools,” school districts are simply unable to free up the resources needed to improve education for the students remaining in traditional public schools.

For far too long, the Charter Schools Programs grant programs have ignored the economic reality of charter school growth and its impact on the resources available to traditional public school students. When charter schools expand, traditional public school students are left with fewer resources. We urge the department to amend its community impact analysis guidelines to ask applicants whether a credit rating agency has identified charter school growth as a credit negative for the sending district(s) from which the proposed (or current) school intends to draw its students.

We appreciate the proposed regulations’ increased attention to the problems of the for-profit charter school industry: The proposed regulations’ focus on tightening disclosure regulations around education management organization contracts is well-warranted and consistent with ensuring that CSP funds are allocated to high-performing charter schools. The for-profit charter school industry is disgraceful, and charter operators should not be able to evade the eligibility requirements of the Charter Schools Program by utilizing complex organizational structures and service contracts.

Research shows that for-profit virtual charter schools—which comprise a significant portion of all for-profit schools—are poorly serving America’s students. Additionally, a recent National Education Policy Center study found that for-profit virtual charter schools underperform compared with their nonprofit and publicly run counterparts, suggesting that profit-seeking itself undermines educational success.

We appreciate the department’s proposed regulations:

We thank the Department of Education for these proposed regulations, which will significantly improve outcomes for students in both charter and traditional public schools. While this comment contains some minor suggestions we feel would make these proposed regulations more robust, the substance and spirit of the proposed regulations are a welcome indication that the department is serious about unifying a fractured education system and improving educational outcomes for all children, regardless of the type of public school they attend.

Sincerely,

Randi Weingarten

President, American Federation of Teachers

 ######


The American Federation of Teachers is a union of 1.7 million professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.

Randi Weingarten Fedrick C. Ingram Evelyn DeJesus
PRESIDENT SECRETARY-TREASURER EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT

American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
Communications Department • 555 New Jersey Ave. N.W. • Washington, DC 20001 • T: 202-879-4458 • F: 202-879-4580 •  www.aft.org

The U.S. Department of Education has extended the deadline for public comments about proposed regulations for the federal Charter Schools Program. This program started in 1995 with $6 million, when there were very few charter schools. Now there are more than 7,000 charters, many of them operated by for-profit corporations. The new regulations would ban federal funding to for-profit school operators and require new charters to do an impact analysis, showing the need for a new charter. Contrary to the charter industry lobbyists, no existing charter would be affected by these regulations, only new charters that seek federal funding.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, asks for your support:

The US DOE has extended the comment period on their proposed tough Charter Schools Regulations until April 18.

If you have not done so, take one more easy action to stop for-profit-run charters from getting federal Charter Schools Program funds.

Click HERE and send your comment to the U.S. Department of Education via the National Education Association. The NEA has made it easy to do!

If you have sent that quick message, now personalize a longer, more thoughtful commentand submit it through the Department’s portal. Here is a sample you can cut and paste.

I support the proposed rule that schools run by for-profits should not get grants. Charter schools that are run in part or whole to create profit should not benefit from federal expansion or start-up funds.

The relationship between a for-profit management organization is quite different from the relationship between our district vendors who provide a single service. A public 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 their for-profit operator, they find it impossible to do without destroying the schools in the process. In addition, the spending of the for-profit is hidden from public inspection and is not subject to FOIA requests.

I fully support the proposed regulation 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.” The reporting of needs based on enrollment patterns as well as the impact on local desegregation efforts is most welcome.

In the past, one of the most segregated charter chains in the country received CSP grants. Arizona’s BASIS schools, do not provide free or reduced-priced lunch nor transportation. BASIS expects parents to make donations to subsidize teacher salaries. In a state where 52% of all students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, the percentage in BASIS schools is only 1%. While 13% of Arizona’s public school students are students with disabilities, the percentage in BASIS schools is 3%. Latinx and Black students are dramatically underrepresented in the schools in this chain. Eight Arizona BASIS charter schools were recipients of CSP sub-grants between 2010-2017 receiving over $5 million dollars.

The inclusion of an impact statement will help reviewers make the best decisions regarding which schools should get awards. The impact analysis requirements should 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 all students. Too often, the neediest students are left behind in our districts, while funding leaves the schools along with students who require fewer services.

I fully support priorities one and two. They will help us get back to the original purpose of charter schools—innovative places run by teachers and families in cooperation with our local schools. I do not want my tax dollars to go to create new schools for the benefit of the big EMO and CMO chains.

Submit your comment by cutting and pasting it here.

And then keep sending those tweets by clicking here.

Thanks for all you do.


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The nonprofit, nonpartisan group “In the Public Interest” explains the need to regulate the $440 million federal Charter Schools Program, which is awash in waste, fraud, and abuse.

Did you know that the federal government spends $440 million every year to help start privately run charter schools?

Did you know that some of that money ends up in the hands of people who never actually open schools or open them and quickly close them? And that some goes to charter schools run by for-profit organizations in communities that do not want them.

Some even goes to charter schools with a history of worsening racial segregation and others that exclude, by policy or practice, students with disabilities and students who are English Language Learners.

That’s why it’s a big deal that Department of Education just proposed new rules to reform its funding program.

And why YOU, as an individual and/or an organization, need to send a comment in support of the department’s proposed changes.

Please open this link and comment or attach a letter (the deadline is April 13).

Make sure you write that you support the proposed changes. Try to personalize it as much as you can. Talk about how charter schools are impacting your school district or how they might if they started opening and taking away public school dollars. (Here’s a post from education historian Diane Ravitch with more on what to write.)

If you’re short on time, just say who you are and that you support the changes.

Here are the most important proposed reforms:

  • A proposed charter school would need to divulge how it will impact the local school district, including finances, demographics, and educational needs.
  • A proposed charter school would need to demonstrate how it would serve the local community.
  • Charter schools operated by for-profit organizations would no longer be eligible for funding.

The charter school industry is fighting the new regulations with all they’ve got. Opinion pieces are echoing across right-wing media.

Let the Department of Education know they are supported. Comment before April 13. It will only take a few minutes.

If you need help writing a comment, don’t hesitate to email us.

Keep in touch,

Jeremy Mohler
Communications Director
In the Public Interest

P.S. We have a new website!!!