Category Archives: Charter Schools

40 cities in 10 years: Leaked presentation offers more details on new group’s goals to spread charter (and charter-like) schools

Source: Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat, August 21, 2018

The new organization aiming to spread a mix of charter schools, school autonomy, and unified enrollment across the country wants to reach 5 percent of low-income students in the U.S. within five years, according to a presentation obtained by Chalkbeat. The City Fund, whose formation was announced late last month, has already amassed over $200 million and a well-connected staff, making it poised to influence education policy in cities across the country. The full presentation, used a few months ago to pitch potential funders, offers the most detailed available blueprint of the group’s goals and strategies, which include expanding charter schools or charter-like alternatives. Known as the “portfolio model,” it’s a controversial approach that has faced skepticism from both critics and supporters of charter schools. The academic success of the approach remains hotly debated. …

Calif. Legislature Approves McCarty Measure to Ban For-Profit Charter Schools – AB 406

Source: Christopher Simmons, California Newswire, August 23, 2018
 
The California State Legislature today approved AB 406 by Calif. Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), which would prohibit for-profit corporations from managing and operating charter schools in the Golden State. This bipartisan measure was approved by the State Senate on a 28 to 7 vote and by the State Assembly on a 49 to 15 vote. … A broad alliance across the state also supported AB 406 including the California Teachers Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Association of California School Administrators, the California Labor Federation, the California School Boards Association, the California School Employees Association and the California State PTA. …

Puerto Rico’s High Court Clears Way for Vouchers, Charter Schools

Source: Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week, August 10, 2018

Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge to the U.S. territory’s plans to allow charter schools and vouchers, spelling a potential end to one of the biggest controversies about the island’s education system since two major hurricanes hit the island last year. Earlier this year, the island’s government approved a plan to create “alianza” schools, which are intended to be like charter schools, as well as a “free school” selection program similar to vouchers. …

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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. …

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. …

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White Hat Management Leaves Ohio Charter Industry

Source: Mitch Felan, WKSU, August 8, 2018
 
White Hat Management, the once-prolific Ohio charter school operator and early advocate for school choice in the state, is leaving the charter school business. The company has been steadily losing contracts over the past few years in the competitive market. …

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When it comes to facing down Ohio’s well-heeled charter school lobbyists, will state lawmakers be leaders — or lapdogs?
Source: Brent Larkin, Northeast Ohio Media Group, July 24, 2015

…… In the past 17 years, Ohio’s two largest charter school management companies — David Brennan’s Akron-based White Hat Management and William Lager’s Columbus-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) — have funneled more than $6 million to Republican candidates and causes. In the last election cycle, ECOT alone gave more than $400,000. The payoff? About $1.76 billion in taxpayer money has flowed into charter schools run by Brennan and Lager since 1998.

Start the investigation of the state Department of Education
Source: Editorial Board, Beacon Journal, July 18, 2015

Let the formal investigation begin, preferably by David Yost, the state auditor, or an independent investigator tapped by the State Board of Education. The target? The Ohio Department of Education, its director of school choice admitting last week that he removed or ignored failing grades for online and dropout recovery charter schools as part of evaluating the performance of sponsors, those organizations that oversee the publicly funded yet privately run schools.

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ALEC Sets the Table for Gerrymandering, Union Busting, Protecting Fossil Fuels, and Privatizing Schools

Source: Mary Bottari, PR Watch, August 7, 2018
 
When the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) convenes its 45th annual meeting of legislators and corporate lobbyists at the swank Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel on August 8, it will serve up a veritable banquet of union-busting, gerrymandering, pro-fossil fuel, and school privatization proposals for lawmakers to take back home. … With citizens turning to the courts and ballot box in a growing number of states to clamp down on hyper-partisan “gerrymandering” schemes, ALEC members will instead be voting on a resolution to defend the right of politicians to keep hand-picking their voters. … ALEC’s latest union-busting bill, which would force unions to hold recertification elections every other year, has long been pushed by anti-union PR man Richard Berman and others. … Over the years, ALEC has worked hand-in-hand with the DeVos family’s group, American Federation for Children, to advance a “cash for kids” model of school privatization, including dozens of bills promoting school vouchers. For decades, ALEC billed vouchers as a civil rights ticket for low-income kids, but then ALEC’s “Education Savings Account Act” created a “universal” system that siphons off public education dollars to private school parents of any income level. Now ALEC is debating a new bill, the “Economic Development Zone ESA Act,” to require the state to pay the equivalent of public school aid toward any private school for students who live in majority low-income economic development zones. Given the cost of a private school education, the likely effect would be to subsidize the ability of middle- and upper-income families in economically distressed areas to pull their kids out of public school. …

Principals’ Union to Go After New Members in Charter Schools Post-Janus

Source: Arianna Prothero, Education Week, July 30, 2018
 
The national union for public school principals plans to launch a recruitment program for charter school leaders.  The initiative comes as unions are anticipating steep membership and funding losses as a result of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The largely non-unionized charter sector could present ample—albeit rocky—territory for expansion for unions. … The American Federation of School Administrators voted last weekend on a resolution to create a charter school recruitment program at its convention in Washington. This is the first concrete move by a union of educators to focus on organizing charter school personnel post-Janus. Neither of the national teachers’ unions offered up such resolutions during their conventions earlier this month. …

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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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. …