Category Archives: Charter Schools

DeVos prioritizes grants for school choice programs. But it won’t help all students.

Source: Elham Khatami, ThinkProgress, October 12, 2017

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos unveiled a document Thursday outlining her policy priorities, and while it comes as no surprise that she intends to steer more grant funding to school choice programs, it’s unlikely that the programs will be effective. School choice, or programs that provide alternatives to traditional public schools, has been at the center of DeVos’ national education policy since she was appointed to the Trump administration. Indeed, President Trump’s proposed 2017-2018 budget from earlier this year calls for $1.4 billion to support investments in school choice, including an additional $167 million for the Charter Schools Program and $250 million for a school voucher proposal geared toward private schools — all while proposing $9.2 billion in cuts from other federal education programs. …

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Betsy DeVos’ 6-month report card: More undoing than doing
Source: Associated Press, August 10, 2017
 
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the news cycle has been dominated by stories of White House controversy: a travel ban, North Korea, health care and more.  Meanwhile, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been busy fulfilling her conservative agenda that seeks to broaden school choice and market-based schooling in pre-K through higher education.  As a researcher of education policy and politics, I’ve been following Secretary DeVos’ first six months in office. Here’s a quick look at what’s she’s done – and what’s been left in limbo. …

School’s out: Teachers union chief Randi Weingarten says Trump leads “most anti-public-education” administration ever
Source: Chauncey Devega, Salon, August 7, 2017
 
How can public education be saved in America? What role does Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos play in the crisis facing America’s public schools? Why do so many Americans believe in the false promises and lies of school privatization and other neoliberal so-called reforms? How are strong American public schools essential for a strong democracy and robust economy?  In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. A longer version can be heard on my podcast, available on Salon’s Featured Audio page. …

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Regular Public School Teachers Miss More School Than Charter Teachers, Study Finds

Source: Liana Loewus, Education Week, September 20, 2017

Teachers in traditional public schools are much more likely than teachers in charter schools to miss more than 10 days of work, according to a new report from a right-leaning think tank. About 28 percent of teachers in traditional public schools are “chronically absent,” defined in the report as taking more than 10 days of personal or sick leave. In charter schools, just 10 percent of teachers take that much leave, the analysis found. … However, Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, said in a statement that “Fordham is using corrupted assertions to draw misguided conclusions.” … Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and advocacy group that has also studied teacher absences, said the most salient difference between the two types of schools is not collective bargaining. Charters are generally autonomous, and not beholden to a larger bureaucracy—the teachers there may have trouble slipping under the radar, Walsh argued. …

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Editorial: Another round in the Hogan-teachers union feud

Source: Baltimore Sun, September 18, 2017 
Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement that he will not sign Maryland’s proposed plan to implement the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act — the Obama era successor to No Child Left Behind — got him some swift criticism from the Maryland teachers union and its allies, including a claim from one of his prospective 2018 opponents that he is the “anti-public education governor.” The critics claim that he is putting some $250 million in federal funding for Maryland schools at risk and aligning himself with the extreme school privatization agenda of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. …

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Despite veto threat, Maryland lawmakers send Hogan bill to limit school reforms
Source: Erin Cox, Baltimore Sun, March 28, 2017

Disregarding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto threat, the Democrat-dominated General Assembly passed a bill Tuesday to forbid the state from using vouchers or charter schools to fix struggling schools. Both the Senate and House approved the bill by veto-proof margins, setting in motion a political showdown with Hogan for the final two weeks of session. …

Maryland Democrats blast Hogan’s education agenda, likening it to Trump’s
Source: Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun, February 7, 2017

Maryland Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday made their case against a series of state education bills that they say push a “privatization agenda” also championed by President Donald Trump and his controversial new education secretary, Betsy DeVos. Dozens of Democrats joined the state teachers union to decry bills backed by Gov. Larry Hogan that would provide scholarships to private schools and encourage more charter schools in Maryland. They said the Republican governor is following the same philosophy as Trump and DeVos, promoting private and charter schools at the expense of public schools. … Weller criticized Hogan’s plans to increase the amount of tax dollars used to help poor children afford a seat in private schools, as well as to set up a new state panel that would approve applications to open new charter schools, an authority currently held by local school boards. … The teachers union and Democrats rattled off a list of bills they plan to pass and Hogan efforts they plan to defeat this General Assembly session. They’re proposing a bill that would prevent the state from looking to school privatization as a way to comply with a federal law requiring turnaround plans for poor-performing schools. … The Democrats also are mobilizing to block Hogan’s proposal to help charter schools by, among other things, creating a new state board that will review and authorize new charter schools to open. Critics say Hogan can stack the panel with allies who will allow a flood of new charter schools that will siphon funding from public schools. … The Democratic lawmakers said they will oppose Hogan’s promise to gradually increase funding for a private school scholarship program known as Broadening Options & Opportunities for Students Today or BOOST from $5 million to $10 million. …

Pro-charter school group pays $425,000 for failing to disclose donors in Massachusetts ballot fight

Source: Shira Schoenberg, Masslive.com, September 11, 2017

An advocacy organization that gave more than $15 million to a Massachusetts ballot campaign to lift the cap on charter schools has agreed to pay $426,500 to settle allegations of campaign finance violations. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance alleged that Families for Excellent Schools contributed money to the ballot campaign in a way that was designed to hide the identity of its donors. The organization denies any wrongdoing. This is the largest settlement ever collected by Massachusetts’ Office of Campaign and Political Finance….

… Under the settlement, Families for Excellent Schools paid the state of Massachusetts $426,500 – the total amount that the organization had in cash as of Aug. 21. It registered as a ballot committee and filed a retroactive campaign finance report disclosing its donors. Its affiliated organization Families for Excellent Schools is barred from campaigning in Massachusetts for four years. According to the campaign finance report, many of the major donors to Families for Excellent Schools worked in the financial industry for various investment management firms. Most, though not all, of the donors, were from Massachusetts….

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Baker: Back to drawing board on charter schools
Source: Andy Metzger, Sentinel & Enterprise, November 10, 2016

Rejected by the voters in his bid for an expansion of charter school access, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday he will explore other means of reducing the gap between the achievement levels of white students and students of color. Speaking a day after Question 2 went down, with 37.8 percent in favor and 62.2 percent opposed, Baker mulled extensions to the school day or models similar to a Springfield partnership where schools within a public school district have authority over making their own hiring, scheduling, budgeting and curriculum decisions. … The Republican governor had backed the ballot question, which would have allowed for up to 12 additional charter schools per year beyond statutory caps, asserting that charters “have been in many cases the single biggest thing that have closed the achievement gap.” A popular Republican governor who was elected by a 40,000-vote margin two years ago in a predominantly Democrat state, Baker campaigned for Question 2 and against Question 4, legalizing marijuana. … While Question 2 had immense financial backing, spending $24 million compared to opponents’ $14 million, local school committees, mayors and teachers unions mobilized against it. Despite the roughly $10 million spending advantage, the question was defeated by a substantial margin. Only Question 3, which mandates protections for farm animals, had a more lopsided margin. A town-by-town map of results published by WBUR-FM shows opposition was widespread and nearly unanimous through cities and rural towns. A string of support in a prosperous part of Metrowest stretches from Lincoln to Sherborn, while other towns supporting the measure include Nantucket, Cohasset and Manchester-By-The-Sea. …

Massachusetts Ballot Measure on Charter School Expansion Fails
Source: New York Times, November 9, 2016

Voters in Massachusetts rejected a $26 million effort to increase the number of charter schools in the state, delivering a blow to that movement and a victory for the unions that also spent heavily trying to defeat it. The measure lost, 62.6 percent to 37.4 percent. … There was little dispute from either side that the existing 78 charter schools have performed well. But the state caps how much money communities can send to charter schools, and nine communities, including Boston, have hit the cap or can open only one more school, and thus have long wait lists. The battle turned to the question of equality: Would bringing more charters help close the achievement gap for minority children in those cities? Or would it drain money from traditional public schools and create a tiered education system? … Polling suggested the question would be answered mostly along partisan lines, with Republicans like Gov. Charlie Baker supporting expansions and Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren opposing them. …

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Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost.

Source: Mark Binelli, New York Times, September 5, 2017

… A major victim of the city’s borderline insolvency was its public-school system, which had been under state control since 2012. (Six different state-appointed emergency managers have run the district since then.) Plummeting enrollment, legacy costs and financial mismanagement had left the school system with a projected deficit of $10 million. The state’s solution that year was to “charterize” the entire district: void the teacher’s union contract, fire all employees and turn over control of the schools to a private, for-profit charter operator. But enrollment at Highland Park High continued to decline, so the state closed the school in 2015. Highland Park now has no high school, either public or charter. Families send their children to high schools in Detroit or the suburbs, where they have no electoral influence over local officials or school boards.

… Michigan’s aggressively free-market approach to schools has resulted in one of the most deregulated educational environments in the country, a laboratory in which consumer choice and a shifting landscape of supply and demand (and profit motive, in the case of many charters) were pitched as ways to improve life in the classroom for the state’s 1.5 million public-school students. … The story of Carver is the story of Michigan’s grand educational experiment writ small. It spans more than two decades, three governors and, now, the United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, whose relentless advocacy for unchecked “school choice” in her home state might soon, her critics fear, be going national. But it’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story: It’s a business story. Today in Michigan, hundreds of nonprofit public charters have become potential financial assets to outside entities, inevitably complicating their broader social missions. …

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Michigan Emergency Managers Outsource Education
Source: Dylan Scott, Governing, August 2, 2012

Can contracting out education services save a school district money and improve student performance? Highland Park Public Schools in Michigan are about to find out. It’s an innovative idea, one enabled by Michigan’s emergency manager law, which gives one public official almost autonomous authority to oversee a city or school district’s finances and operations, as Governing detailed in its June issue. Last week, Highland Park Public Schools Emergency Manager Joyce Parker announced that she planned to hire The Leona Group, a charter school operator, to take over the school’s curriculum and instruction. Parker and her office will continue to oversee financial matters. …

Highland Park district seeks to charter all of its schools
Source: Jennifer Chambers, Detroit News, June 18, 2012

The emergency manager of Highland Park Schools says turning the entire district over to a charter operator is the only way to make it financially viable for students to return this fall…. The Muskegon Heights school district also has sought proposals to place all of its schools under a charter operator. Parker, who has the sole authority to hire a charter operator in Highland Park, said she expects an operator to be selected by mid-July.

Charter Schools Insist: Our Teachers Are Public Employees! Or Private Employees! Whichever Means They Can’t Unionize!

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, American Prospect, September 5, 2017

… In February 2017, the NLRB voted 2-1 against IHS’s challenge, concluding that the teachers are indeed private workers under their purview rather than public employees. Yet IHS, still refusing to bargain, is now taking its case to the Fifth Circuit—the first time a federal appellate court will rule on such a challenge. The outcome of this suit could affect labor law for charter teachers not only at IHS, but throughout all the Fifth Circuit states—Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. …

… But which side of the public-or-private controversy charter schools come down on seems to vary with political geography. While in the IHS case, the state charter associations insist that all charter schools should be considered political subdivisions (and therefore public) under the “Hawkins test,” when charter teachers at the Chicago Mathematics & Science Academy filed for union representation with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in 2010, the school responded by saying its teachers fell under the purview of the NLRB, because their charter was a privately incorporated nonprofit, governed by a corporate board. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the most prominent national charter advocacy organization, filed an amicus brief in support of CSMA’s position, arguing that “charter schools are intended to be and usually are run by corporate entities that are administered independently from the state and local governments in which they operate.” …

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Teachers at a fifth New Orleans charter school seeking a union
Source: Jessica Williams, The Advocate, March 28, 2017

Teachers are unionizing at another of New Orleans’ independent charter schools. And, as usual, things have gotten contentious. This time, the faculty at Mary D. Coghill Charter School is pushing for union representation. It’s the fifth campus in the past few years where staff have sought to link up with the United Teachers of New Orleans, a union that once bargained for wages and benefits on behalf of thousands of employees before it was sidelined by the charter movement in the years after Hurricane Katrina. …

National labor board OKs Lusher, International High unions
Source: Danielle Dreilinger, The Times-Picayune, February 1, 2017

The National Labor Relations Board has shot down challenges to two New Orleans charter school unions. That means Lusher Charter School aides and International High School teachers have the right to collectively bargain employment contracts.
The 2-1 board votes came down Wednesday (Feb. 1). … International High plans to appeal the decision, attorney Brooke Duncan III said. … Charter schools are neither fish nor fowl, publicly funded but run by independent nonprofits. The National Labor Relations Board treats them as private employers, which under federal law must bargain with unionized workers. Elected Louisiana school boards don’t. Both schools argued that they should be considered public agencies. … The board’s majority disagreed, writing, “The employer was not created directly by the state so as to constitute a department or administrative arm of the government nor administered by individuals who are responsible to public officials or the general electorate.” …

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Is charter school fraud the next Enron?

Source: Preston Green III, The Conversation, April 27, 2017

… As a scholar who studies the legal and policy issues pertaining to school choice, I’ve observed that the same type of fraud that occurred at Enron has been cropping up in the charter school sector. A handful of school officials have been caught using the Enron playbook to divert funding slated for these schools into their own pockets. … Enron’s downfall was caused largely by something called “related-party transactions.” Understanding this concept is crucial for grasping how charter schools may also be in danger. Related-party transactions are business arrangements between companies with close associations: It could be between two companies owned or managed by the same group or it could be between one large company and a smaller company that it owns. Although related-party transactions are legal, they can create severe conflicts of interest, allowing those in power to profit from employees, investors and even taxpayers.

… Without strict regulation, some bad actors have been able to take advantage of charter schools as an opportunity for private investment. In the worst cases, individuals have been able to use related-party transactions to fraudulently funnel public money intended for charter schools into other business ventures that they control. … Fraudulent related-party transactions can also occur between education management organizations (EMOs) and their affiliates. EMOs are for-profit or nonprofit entities that sometimes manage charter schools, and might also own smaller companies that could provide services to those schools. … Because of insufficient oversight, Fastow’s fraudulent use of related-party transactions at Enron was not stopped until it was too late. Similarly, the Ivy Academia and Renaissance Academy examples reveal insufficient checks and balances in the charter school sector. In both cases, the monitors responsible for protecting charter schools found nothing wrong with the rental agreements. …

What a New Study on Vouchers Means for Trump’s Agenda

Source: Leah Askarainam, The Atlantic, April 28, 2017

… But a report released Thursday found largely negative results for students who participated in the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, suggesting that many of the program’s beneficiaries might actually fare better if they turn down the private-school money.  The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) compared test scores for two groups of students: students who, through a lottery process, were selected to receive vouchers, and students who applied for yet didn’t receive them. The study compared the progress of both groups of students from spring of 2012 to 2014 and found that, a year after they applied for the scholarship, math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. What’s more, after narrowing the pool of students down to those in kindergarten through fifth grade, both reading and math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. …

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A Federal Funding Fight Over D.C. Vouchers
Source: Hannah Hess, Roll Call, Hill Blotter blog, March 17, 2015

Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to protect the D.C. school voucher system, a GOP pet program championed by Speaker John A. Boehner and others. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans are gearing up to move forward on a bill reauthorizing vouchers in the nation’s capital, an initiative known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. They are concerned the White House has again signaled the demise of the federally funded private-school program in its fiscal 2016 budget request…. The president’s budget includes $43.2 million to remain available until expended, a reduction from $45 million in fiscal 2015. The administration wants $3.2 million of the proposed figure to be used for an evaluation of the program…..

Graduation rates up for D.C. public schools, down for charter schools
Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, March 17, 2015

D.C. Public Schools’ graduation rate increased last school year by two percentage points, to 58 percent, but the city’s public charter schools recorded a drop of nearly seven points, to 69 percent, according to new data. The citywide average for the Class of 2014 — 61 percent — was almost unchanged from the year before, according to data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The city’s graduation rate remains far below the national average of 81 percent….

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The Answer Sheet: What the Public Isn’t Told About High-Performing Charter Schools in Arizona

Source: Valerie Strauss and Carol C. Burris, National Education Policy Center, March 30, 2017

… One of the best illustrations of the “non-public” nature of charters is the much heralded BASIS charter schools that began in Arizona, a state with extremely lax charter laws. A close look at BASIS provides insight into how charter schools can cherry-pick students, despite open enrollment laws.  It also shows how through the use of management companies profits can be made — call hidden from public view. … There is no doubt that BASIS provides a challenging education. What is questionable is just how “public” their charter schools really are. … It is important to keep in mind that BASIS Educational Group, LLC. also known as Basis.ed, is also managing for-profit private schools, and it intends to open more.  These private schools are located in Silicon Valley and upscale neighborhoods of New York City. Could the taxpayers of Arizona, along with all U.S. taxpayers be indirectly subsidizing these schools and their expansion? …

Expanding the Fight for Education

Source: Michael Fiorentino & Jessica Wender-Shubow, Jacobin Magazine, March 24, 2017

Except for some pockets of suburban activism around standardized testing, education policy debate in recent years has centered on cities. In places like Chicago and Boston, grassroots coalitions of teachers’ unions and community organizations are struggling to wrest control of their public schools back from the privatization program backed by hedge-funder owners and their lackeys. Suburbs have distanced themselves from those debates. Even in the recent successful campaign against charter school expansion in Massachusetts, the suburban districts often limited their arguments to protecting their funding. In Brookline, Massachusetts, however, the discussion around schools has been changing. A campaign for fair contracts has drawn attention to how corporate education reform is seeping into the day-to-day operations of affluent schools. …

… More striking has been Brookline’s growing awareness of the composition of its school committee, which is dominated by employees of Bain Capital’s pro-charter, pro-privatization venture philanthropy arm, Bridgespan. Bridgespan’s flagship “Billionaire Dollar Bets” eschew local democratic oversight of family intervention and community development, preferring to enlist billionaires to address poverty directly. Meanwhile, wholesale economic and political dispossession of marginalized communities continues. …