Category Archives: Charter Schools

Teachers File New Labor Charge Against Cesar Chavez Charter Network and TenSquare, a Consulting Firm

Source: Rachel Cohen, Washington CityPaper, July 6, 2018

An ongoing legal battle between unionized teachers at Chavez Prep Middle School in Northwest D.C. and their charter school escalated today. The union filed a new unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, this time naming TenSquare Group, a charter school consulting firm, a joint-employer of the school. This is the fourth charge the union has filed against the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School network since August, but the first time TenSquare has also been named liable. In its latest complaint, the union alleges that the charter network and TenSquare have illegally changed the school’s calendar for the 2018-19 school year in ways that affect terms of employment, have bargained in bad-faith (referred to as “surface bargaining”), and have walked out of a bargaining session before its scheduled end time, “thereby disregarding their bargaining obligation under the [National Labor Relations] Act.” …

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Behind the Consulting Firm Raking In Millions From D.C. Charter Schools
Source: Rachel Cohen, Washington CityPaper, May 24, 2018

“Everybody’s afraid.” That’s a D.C. charter school administrator’s assessment of TenSquare, one of the city’s most connected, lucrative, and controversial charter consulting companies. … Even in education circles, most people have never heard of TenSquare, a national for-profit consulting firm that currently operates in seven states and the District. It markets itself as a universal fixer for troubled charters—a one-stop shop for facility financing, staff recruitment, back-end operations, teacher training, and academic turnarounds. … But a five-month City Paper investigation has raised a host of questions about TenSquare’s work. Available data do not show consistent improvements across the D.C. schools that hired TenSquare, and several schools got worse. Its business dealings reveal a criss-crossing web of repeat players, potential conflicts of interest, and in one instance the recurring appearance of an alleged far-right activist. Yet it’s not a coincidence that TenSquare has landed some of the most remunerative charter contracts in the city: While not every school leader disparages TenSquare, a number have said they felt real pressure from the PCSB to hire the company. …

DC: Teachers Hit the Picket Line at First Charter School to Unionize in D.C.
Source: Liana Loewus, Education Week, December 1, 2017

A growing number of charter school teachers have begun to start seeing unionizing as an option, as we’ve written. Among the most recent charters to organize is Chavez Prep Middle School in Washington, part of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School network. Teachers there voted in June to form a collective-bargaining unit affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers. And now those teachers are saying the charter school’s administration isn’t negotiating with them as is legally required. “By law after our vote, any changes to our working conditions have to be negotiated with us,” said Christian Herr, a science teacher who headed the organizing effort. “Our board continues to make significant changes—adding job duties without additional compensation, things like that—without bargaining with us.” …

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Kentucky’s first charter school director resigns after less than a year. Here’s why.

Source: Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader, May 9, 2018

Less than a year after he was hired as the first director of the Kentucky Department of Education’s charter school division, Earl Simms said he is resigning May 25 so that his wife can go back to her previous job in St. Louis. Simms told WDRB-TV in Louisville and the Herald-Leader that he was not leaving because former Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt suddenly resigned in April at a state school board meeting, one day after Gov. Matt Bevin appointed several new board members. The board of all-Bevin appointees that same day hired charter school proponent Wayne D. Lewis Jr. as an interim Commissioner. … Though the charter school movement appears to be stalled, Lewis has said he will work with Kentucky Department of Education officials to determine if there is a path for charter schools that doesn’t require the General Assembly to approve a funding mechanism. …

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A closer look at the future of charter schools in Kentucky
Source: Emilie Arroyo, WKYT, April 18, 2018

The Kentucky Board of Education is taking a new direction after the resignation of education commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt and Gov. Matt Bevin’s appointments of new board members this week. Many expect that direction to be a stronger push for charter schools, but Kentucky’s legislature ended its 2018 session with no funding process in place. … While it’s unclear when Kentucky will see it’s first charter school, we do know how it will work. …

Kentucky Lawmakers Approve Charter School Law
Source: Lesli A. Maxwell, Education Week, March 15, 2017

After years of failed attempts, Kentucky lawmakers have approved a charter school law. The measure passed the state Senate on a vote of 23-15 Wednesday afternoon, largely along party lines. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin—an enthusiastic supporter of charters—is expected to sign the measure. The Kentucky House approved the bill—HB 520—last week and will still have to sign off on changes made by the Senate. … Kentucky has been one of the hardest places to pass a charter law, but with the 2016 election, Republicans in the state took control of the legislature and the governorship, clearing the way for a charter bill to succeed. The bill says nothing about how charters in Kentucky will be funded. Under its provisions, there will be no limit on the number of charter schools that can be authorized. … And while the bill says that parents, community members, public organizations, school administrators, and nonprofits can apply to operate a charter school, there is nothing in the legislation that prevents charter school operators from contracting out all of their management and operations to a for-profit entity. …

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Puerto Rico’s Teachers Battle for the Schools Their Students Deserve

Source: Jesse Hagopian, The Progressive, May 9, 2018
 
On May Day, thousands of Puerto Rican teachers, parents, and students launched strikes and boycotts to push back against austerity measures that would close nearly 300 schools, lay off 7,000 teachers, convert public schools into privatized charters, and cut public sector pensions. I spoke with Mercedes Martinez, President of Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico, about the neoliberal attack on the schools and public sector, the worker strikes and boycotts of May Day, and the brutal response of the police. …

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Puerto Rico Plans to Shutter 283 Schools
Source: AJ Vicens, Mother Jones, April 6, 2018
 
The Puerto Rico Department of Education announced late Thursday that it would close 283 public schools next school year, citing a decline in enrollment of nearly 39,000 students and the island’s ongoing budget crisis.  “Our children deserve the best education we are capable of giving them taking into account the fiscal reality of Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said in a statement issued in Spanish Thursday evening. “Therefore we are working hard to develop a budget that will allow us to focus resources on student needs and improve the quality of teaching.” In early February, Keleher and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló introduced a sweeping education reform plan that called for closing several hundred schools over the next several years and introducing charter schools to the island. The governor estimates the plan will help save $466 million per year by 2022, according to figures in his most recent fiscal plan meant to address the island’s staggering $120 billion in outstanding debts and obligations. Those figures do not take into account the estimated $95 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Maria. …

6 Months After Maria, Puerto Ricans Face a New Threat—Education Reform
Source: Yarimar Bonilla, Rima Brusi and Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, The Nation, March 21, 2018
 
Six months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans are understandably frustrated with their government officials. One might expect discontent to center around the head of the power company who oversaw months of blackouts or the governor who awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in private contracts with little or no oversight. But instead it is the secretary of the department of education, Philadelphia-native Julia Keleher, who has become the focus of people’s anger. In the past few weeks, Puerto Ricans have been calling for her resignation, making her the object of a viral hashtag campaign, #JuliaGoHome. On Monday, the school system was paralyzed by a strike as thousands of teachers protested the education-reform bill her office has spearheaded. …

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Amid National Uprising, Teachers Just Took a Major Step Toward Organizing Charter Schools

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, The Intercept, May 2, 2018
 
The fight over charter schools is often just as much a battle over unions. Charter school operators and funders take relatively clear anti-union positions, and the absence of organized labor is often a selling point for charters, which boast flexible hours and pay schedules as paths toward quality education. Teacher unions, meanwhile, tend to oppose charter schools as a drain on needed resources for traditional schools and as centers of educator exploitation. In the 2016-2017 academic year, just 11 percent of charter schools were unionized. Yet in Los Angeles, teachers just took a big step toward reversing that trend. … On Wednesday morning, a legal representative for a majority of teachers at three of the network’s 25 campuses filed union authorization cards at the state’s Public Employment Relations Board. Once the signatures are verified, the new Alliance Educators United union will be official. …

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Calif. Charter Network Can’t Block Union Organizers, Emails, Judge Rules
Source: Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week, June 8, 2016

California’s labor-relations board for public employees issued a mixed ruling on whether a major California charter management organization illegally tried to quash a unionization drive at its schools. The battle over unionization at the 27-campus Alliance College-Ready Public Schools has been ongoing for more than a year, ever since teachers submitted a “mission statement” outlining their intent to unionize last March. … Judge Kent Morizawa ruled that Alliance officials impermissibly blocked union organizers from schools, and interfered in the drive by redirecting emails from United Teachers Los Angeles into teachers’ “spam” folders. And in one instance, the PERB ruled, an Alliance employee talked about a teacher’s evaluation and employment status in a conversation about the teacher’s support for United Teachers Los Angeles. … But the ruling sided with the Alliance on other matters. For instance, the PERB ruled that many of the Alliance’s other communications to teachers and parents—including statements suggesting that unionization would result in a loss of flexibility and autonomy at the schools—were not coercive or threatening. …

Legislature Orders Audit of LA Charter Chain for Spending Taxpayer Funds to Block Union Drive
Source: Steven Rosenfeld, Alternet, May 26, 2016

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC), composed of members of the Assembly and Senate, voted 8-3 Wednesday to authorize the audit of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, which has 11,000 students in 27 schools. The audit comes after a Los Angeles County Court issued a temporary restraining order against the taxpayer-funded but privately run school to stop its anti-union actions, which include not only intimidating and threatening teachers but also working with the California Charter School Association (CCSA) to recruit parents and alumni to fight the union drive. … The chain has received hundreds of millions in public funds. How much was spent fighting the union drive, including hiring consultants, legal fees, producing media, running phone banks and other outreach activities will be investigated by the state’s auditor. … In March 2015, when teachers and counselors at the chain began a unionization campaign—which is legal under state labor law—the charter school chain responded with aggressive tactics, including illegal surveillance, interference with union meetings, phone calls to parents attacking teachers involved in the campaign, blocking teacher emails and retaliation against organizers. …

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Michael Feinberg, a Founder of KIPP Schools, Is Fired After Misconduct Claims

Source: Anemona Hartocollis, New York Times, February 22, 2018
 
KIPP, one of the country’s largest and most successful charter school chains, dismissed its co-founder on Thursday after an investigation found credible a claim that he had sexually abused a student some two decades ago, according to a letter sent to the school community. The co-founder, Michael Feinberg, was accused last spring of sexually abusing a minor female student in Houston in the late 1990s, according to someone with close knowledge of the case who was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. An outside investigation found her claim credible after interviewing the student and her mother, who both gave the same sequence of events. …

Charter School Group, Known for Battling the Mayor, Will Close

Source: Kate Taylor, New York Times, February 5, 2018
 
Families for Excellent Schools, a charter-schools organization known for its battles with Mayor Bill de Blasio and its close relationship with Eva S. Moskowitz, the mayor’s frequent antagonist and head of the city’s largest charter school network, Success Academy, said on Monday that it was shutting down.  The organization announced last week that it was firing Jeremiah Kittredge, its chief executive officer, after an accusation of “inappropriate behavior toward a non-employee.” But the decision to close seemed to reflect financial problems rather than the loss of a single employee. …

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Stringer: Success Academy stiffed city
Source: Patrick Donachie, Times Ledger, December 22, 2016

Success Academy Charter Schools billed the Department of Education for special education services that may not have been delivered, an audit released by city Comptroller Scott Stringer found. Stringer’s audit additionally found that Success Academy was inconsistent in the financial statements submitted to its authorizer in fiscal year 2015, leading to a situation where the organization looked like it was spending more funds directly on students than it actually was. “We found situations in which Success Academy was violating its own standards, or those of oversight agencies. We hope Success Academy will embrace our recommendations and adjust its practices,” Stringer said in a statement following the release of the audit. “This isn’t about district vs. charter schools—it’s about protecting taxpayer dollars.” The scope of the audit spanned fiscal years 2013 through 2015. The audit included a broader analysis of Success Academy’s finances, along with a detailed examination of a particular school, Success Academy Harlem 3. Success Academy was founded by CEO Eva Moskowitz in 2006. It currently operates 34 public schools throughout New York City, 15 of which are in Queens.

In a Historic First, the Chicago Teachers Union and Charter School Teachers Have Joined Forces

Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, February 1, 2018
 
With the approval of a historic union merger, teachers in Chicago are positioning themselves to mount a greater challenge to privatization and austerity.  On Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced that its members had voted in favor of amalgamating with the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS), which, since 2009, has organized about 1,000 educators at over 30 charter school campuses.  While cooperation between unionized educators at charters and district schools in the United States is common, this is the first known case in which teachers from both types of schools have merged into a single union local. …

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Chicago Teachers Are Trying to Organize the Biggest Charter School Union in the U.S.
Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, March 9, 2017

As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calls for expanding charter schools and voucher programs in the name of “choice,” teachers at Chicago’s largest charter school have declared their choice to form a union. Announcing the creation of the Union of Noble Educators last Friday, workers from Noble Network’s 17 charter high schools hope to follow in the footsteps of teachers and staff from 32 other Chicago charter schools who have already unionized with the help of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).If successful, the 800 or so educators and staff at Noble would comprise the largest unionized charter school network in the country.

… Launched in 2009, Chicago ACTS is at the forefront of the movement to organize charter schools. Its members are not only winning union recognition across the city, but also showing a willingness to withhold their labor to win fair contracts, much like their counterparts in the Chicago Teachers Union. … Teachers with A Council of Educators, the Chicago ACTS affiliate at ASPIRA charter school, recently voted to strike over stalled contract negotiations and could walk off the job as soon as March 17. Last October, a planned strike by unionized teachers at UNO Charter Network Schools was only narrowly averted by a last-minute agreement. Nationally, AFT has made organizing teachers at charter schools a priority since 2007, supporting educators in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New Orleans. According to the Center for Education Reform, 10 percent of charter schools in the United States are now unionized, up from 7 percent just five years ago. …

Charter Schools Are Reshaping America’s Education System for the Worse

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, January 4, 2018
 
Charter schools have been hailed as the antidote to public-school dysfunction by everyone from tech entrepreneurs to Wall Street philanthropists. But a critical autopsy by the advocacy group Network for Public Education (NPE) reveals just how disruptive the charter industry has become—for both students and their communities.  Charter schools are technically considered public schools but are run by private companies or organizations, and can receive private financing—as such, they are generally able to circumvent standard public-school regulations, including unions. This funding system enables maximum deregulation, operating like private businesses and free of the constraints of public oversight, while also ensuring maximum public funding. …

… The Los Angeles Unified School District has seen dramatic effects from the expansion of charter schools as it wrestles with budget crises. … NPE’s investigation found a similar pattern at a BASIS charter school in Arizona, part of a nationwide charter network. … Examining the broader social impact of charters, NPE tracked financial manipulation and fraud at various schools. … Another subsurface problem at many schools is harder to measure: Charters are known for high faculty-turnover rates. … Charters may offer a different relationship to communities, but their brand of “free market” schooling carries costs. Who accounts for the lost social opportunities when education becomes just another market investment?

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Chicago Public School Teachers Sue Charter School Operator Over Missing Pensions

Source: Skyline Newspaper, January 2, 2018
 
Approximately 50% of the public school workforce is made up of teachers, many of whom are likely underpaid for the work they do. In Chicago public schools, a number of teachers were allegedly further underpaid by a charter school operator who did not report their employment and subsequently failed to pay pension contributions on their behalf. And now, the Chicago Public School Teacher’ Pension and Retirement Fund is fighting back by suing that operator, Prologue Inc. …

How the Kochs are trying to shake up public schools, one state at a time

Source: Kimberly Hefling, Politico, October 30, 2017

With school choice efforts stalled in Washington, the billionaire Koch brothers’ network is engaged in state-by-state battles with teachers’ unions, politicians and parent groups to push for public funding of private and charter schools.  One of the newest campaigns is the Libre Initiative, a grassroots drive targeting Hispanic families in 11 states so far, under the umbrella of the Charles and David Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, a powerful conservative and libertarian advocacy group. … The group has had some initial success — for instance, helping to thwart a moratorium on charter school expansion in New Mexico. But it’s also created bitter divisions in the Latino community and led to accusations the Kochs are trying to undermine public education — and even in some cases, to subvert the Democratic process.

… Despite such criticism, the group is hunkering down for the long haul in states it views as ripe for change even as it eyes new states for expansion. Lima says it’s on track to make contact with more than 100,000 Hispanic households this year on school choice. Besides Nevada and New Mexico, Libre is organizing in Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Its recent efforts, with other Koch-backed groups, include:

  • A planned “six-figure” spend in Nevada on “deep canvassing” in Hispanic neighborhoods to build support for educational savings accounts, which enable families to use state tax dollars to pay for private school. …
  • A lawsuit brought by Americans for Prosperity, among others, aimed at stopping a 2018 Arizona referendum asking voters whether they want to keep a school choice law passed earlier this year. …
  • A “six-figure” Libre and Americans for Prosperity campaign in Colorado this summer to promote charter schools and education savings accounts and another ahead of a Nov. 7 school board race by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation to push choice-friendly issues.
  • A seven-figure investment In Virginia’s gubernatorial race by Americans for Prosperity that includes a video criticizing Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, for his opposition to education savings accounts.
  • Mailings in Spanish and English supporting a Florida law that encourages charter schools in communities with low-performing schools. After Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, signed it into law, the state Democratic Party said he’d “declared war on our public schools.” …