Still more charter scandals

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This is the fourth blog I’ve devoted to charter scandals. Sadly this could become a monthly post. These stories are from November.

Milwaukee, WI –  Out of 126 teachers at the Milwaukee Charter Prep (MCP) school, 22 are not currently licensed. Milwaukee Public Schools teachers are required to have a license to teach, so are MCP teachers. According to Rob Rauh, the CEO of MCP,  they are “working diligently” with Teach For America and Milwaukee Public Schools to get the applications processed.

Rauh explains why there is a high number of unlicensed staff. Some teachers were recruited from another state. Others are taking part in recruitment programs like Teach For America. Others have pending applications for renewal. But one of the biggest obstacles, Rauh says, is the state’s rigorous certification exam known as the Praxis (Fox.com).

“It’s a challenging test,” Rauh said.  Nghia Foster, who is the Dean of Students for Milwaukee College Prep, struggled to pass the Praxis. “A test does not justify what you can do in a classroom,” Foster said (Fox.com). 

Thirty seven states require students pass Praxis to gain state licensure. Other states require a different exam, but all require a test as a criteria for licensing.

My question: How is reformers answer to failing public schools unlicensed teachers who can’t pass a basic core competency exam?

Chicago, IL –  In 2005 Pamela Strain founded the Beacon Hill Preparatory Academy, a private school for underprivileged children in a south Chicago suburban neighborhood.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Strain is suspected by the FBI of using the school to steal $2.7 million in funds over a seven-year period, including money from federal school lunch subsidies and other grants designed to provide nutritious food to low-income children. “During one visit to the school’s Harvey location in 2015, a state inspector encountered offices with badly outdated equipment and records of a food program that were either missing or incomplete. The school appeared to have no dedicated food prep area, and an empty classroom where food was being stored was infested with moths Chicago Tribune .

Strain, 60, is charged with using school funding to “…pay for a lavish lifestyle, including her home and other properties, luxury cars, spas, salons and shopping sprees at stores such as Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s” Chicago Tribune.

My question: Without oversight from the state, does anyone see why so many people are misappropriating funds?

Dover, DE –  Noel Rodriguez, principal of the Academy of Dover, a charter school was recently charged with embezzling $145,480 from the Academy over a a three-year-period beginning in July 2011. “Rodriguez used the embezzled money for personal expenses such as electronics, gardening and camping equipment, automobile costs, a dog house, personal travel and home improvement items” (Delaware State News).

My question: If this gentleman was under investigation from the beginning, why did it take so long to investigate?

Chicago, IL – Megan Kotarski, 28 was a teacher at the Horizon Science Academy was charged this month with having sexual contact with a 16 year old student. Kotarski is charged with a felony count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim between 13 and 18 years old (Fox News).

My question: What the hell????

Tobyhanna, PA – Reverend Dennis Bloom, 62, was the former CEO of the Pocono Mountain Charter School, and pastor of the Shawnee Tabernacle Church. This month Bloom was fined $55,000 by the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission for filing deficient financial statements for four years. Additionally he was charged with ethics violations. “According to the commission, Bloom gave his wife a substantial raise and hired his children for positions in the school(Pocono Record).

Bloom founded the K-12 school in 2003 and resigned as CEO of the charter school in 2010 under a cloud of controversy regarding his personal and school finances.  The PA Charter Appeals Board revoked the charter’s license renewal application, because of “excessive entanglement between the school and its landlord, the Shawnee Tabernacle Church” (Pocono Record).

My question again: Without oversight from the state, does anyone see a pattern of misappropriation?

I’ve written of only a few of the multitude of stories about charter scandals. We know what happens when the fox guards the hen house, and we continue to watch it happen. Shame on us.

These are my reflections for today.

12/1/2017

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Storms and Charters

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed most of the infrastructure of New Orleans’ public schools. The storm also largely destroyed the state and local tax bases from which the school district drew its revenues.

Hurricane Katrina displaced 64,000 students and caused $800 million in damage to public school buildings in New Orleans. With state policy opening doors to charters two years earlier, charter schools in New Orleans swept in seizing the moment and filling the spaces left in the wake of Katrina. Though a small but strong group of charter school supporters existed previous to Katrina’s arrival, the mass devastation and disruption caused by this natural disaster created an educational vacuum.  The charter movement quickly expanded its footprint across the city’s parishes.

In September 2017 Hurricane Maria caused over $30 billion in damage to Puerto Rico- leaving most people without homes and drinking water, and everyone without power for a period of time. After the storm, every one of the 1,113 schools across the island was closed. As recently as  early  November,  598 or almost half of the schools are still closed.

More than 140,000 families have left the island since the storm hit September 20, and some experts estimate more than 300,000 more could leave in the coming two years. Schools in the US are dealing with an influx of Puerto Rican students; by some estimates up to 14,000 new students. Many families have gone to Florida, followed by Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and New Jersey (ABC News). This from Orange County (Orlando) Superintendent Jesus Jara:

“Our No. 1 priority from Day 1 was to welcome our fellow American citizens into our community and into our schools, to bring normalcy back into their life,”

Teachers have also fled, many to Florida and Texas, though they have until January 8, 2018 to return and reclaim their jobs (Suarez, 2017).

By the numbers:

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School administrators are considering using the storm, similar to New Orleans, as an opportunity to privatize the public schools.  Puerto Rico’s Education Secretary Julia Keleher has already called New Orleans’s school reform efforts a “point of reference” — tweeting last week that Puerto Ricans “should not underestimate the damage or the opportunity to create new, better schools” (Chavez & Cohn, 2017).

In the midst of a $73 billion debt crisis that pushed the island into a form of bankruptcy and forced hundreds of school closures, Keleher — a former U.S. Department of Education official who has worked since 2007 to transform Puerto Rico’s schools — announced a plan to decentralize the island’s unitary education system (Chavez & Cohn, 2017).

Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center For Education Reform, said reformers “should be thinking about how to recreate the public education system in Puerto Rico.” Allen, who was involved in the New Orleans school reform efforts, says charter operators should be thinking about how they can get involved in Puerto Rico’s post-Maria landscape (Chavez & Cohn, 2017).

You know Einstein said about insanity…

“Puerto Rico has been in an economic depression for over a decade and its schools were struggling before Hurricane Maria. Between 2006 and 2016, 700,000 students left the island. Earlier this year, Puerto Rico closed 200 schools as part of its austerity effort.

“Further, 90 percent of the island’s public-school students were low income before the hurricane. Last year, fewer than half of the island’s students scored proficient in Spanish, math, English, or science. The graduation rate is at 75 percent” (Chavez & Cohn, 2017).

Many educators in Puerto Rico fear the Department’s refusal to open habitable schools is a signal of “permanent closures and school privatization” (Chavez & Cohn, 2017). The department has already estimated up to a fifth of schools will never reopen. School buildings have been used as community centers, but when asked if they will reopen as schools, the answer is vague.
Aida Diaz, President of the island’s teachers’ union, which has 40,000 members, is concerned about Keleher’s reform efforts. “This is why we are reopening the schools, this is why teachers are cleaning and rebuilding those schools. We don’t want anyone to come here and start doing charters here” (Suarez, 2017).
In New Orleans, thousands of veteran teachers were fired, and replaced by reformers-many coming from Teach for America. Advocates are still fighting to regain control of local school boards, and the success of the charters has been slow, and riddled with corruption and failure.
Now, leaders in Puerto Rico are following the model of New Orleans as an exemplar  – or as the Education Secretary called it a “point of reference.”
That reformers would seize the moment to bring their brand of reform to the vulnerable people of the island is difficult to accept. The answer to failing schools is not charters. There is an absence of research to support this reform.  As The Network for Public Education says, ‘another day, another charter scandal’.
To call New Orleans a point of reference is true, but it is a reference of what is wrong with charters, not an exemplar.
These are my reflections for today.
11/17/17
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Bill Gates’ new project

Back in 2000, Bill Gates threw his hat into the ring of “fixing” public education. He spent millions and millions of dollars on an idea to break big high schools into smaller schools.  After a few years he abandoned this idea as the test scores of high school students in the smaller schools didn’t climb, as he had hoped.

Next came his support of aligning teacher performance evaluations to student test scores. Not only is this a highly researched and unproven idea, it became one of the conditions for any state applying for Race to the Top funding. In order to qualify, states had to connect teacher performance with student test scores. This, too failed.

Then came Gates’ idea of Common Core Standards.  While many states went ahead with the adoption of national curricula standards, test scores did not improve after implementation. This may be, in part, because they were written by non-educators, never piloted, and cost school districts millions to implement; many abandoning millions of dollars worth of textbook series’ adoptions because they didn’t align with the new standards.

This week, Gates announced he is investing $1.7 billion to “bolster public education in the United States.” He made the announcement this week, saying “Education is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging areas we invest in as a foundation,” Business Insider. Perhaps this is because his investments have not been paying off.

Where will the money go this time? Nothing specific was outlined in his announcement. However he hinted the money will be divided like this:

Roughly 60% of the funding will go toward supporting “the development of new curricula and networks of schools that work together to identify local problems and solutions,” Gates said. A large chunk of those problems involve schools that are effectively segregated based on race.

Another 25% will go toward “big bets” — programs that could change public education over the next 10 to 15 years (no further details provided).

And 15% will address the sector of charter schools, which Gates believes are vital for helping kids with moderate to severe learning disabilities receive a high-quality education Business Insider.

First, the development of new curricula. Back in 2014, Sue Desmond-Hellman, Gates Foundation Director said of Common Core Standards, “Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards. We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators – particularly teachers – but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning” (Washington Post).
Creating new curricula did not work the first time, and now Gates wants to spend more money trying again.  At what cost (again) to school districts?

Next, programs that could change public education.  In 2016 a scathing editorial in the Los Angeles Times called, “Gates Foundation failures show philanthropists shouldn’t be setting America’s public school agenda” (LA Times).  In the editorial,

The Gates Foundation is clearly rethinking its bust-the-walls-down strategy on education — as it should. And so should the politicians and policymakers, from the federal level to the local, who have given the educational wishes of Bill and Melinda Gates and other well-meaning philanthropists and foundations too much sway in recent years over how schools are run (LA Times).

And finally,  charter schools. If you are a frequent reader of this blog or any other source for news on public education, you know how that’s going. Charter scandals. More charter scandals. Even more charter scandals… Florida, Michigan, Ohio, New Mexico, Mississippi, Arizona, New Jersey, California, Louisiana, and so many others. Previous blogs I’ve written on charters are here, here, here, and here. Charters rob low-income districts of funding, and run without accountability. Another failed reformer idea.

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Mr. Gates is a smart, successful business man. Here are a few questions he and his foundation should consider: What could $1.7 billion buy low-income school districts? Teachers? Technology? Support Services? Books? Professional Development? Modern facilities? Healthcare? Clean water? Parent education? After-school programs?

He’s building a house of cards, but at least it’s with his own money.

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These are my reflections for today.

10/27/17

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Et tu, New Jersey?

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On August 29, 2017 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the opening of the M.E.T.S. Charter School in Newark.  M.E.T.S., which stands for Mathematics, Engineering, Technology and Science (a spin-off of the more popular S.T.E.M. acronym).  M.E.T.S. also operates a school in Jersey City.

Yesterday it was reported the school would close its doors in June 2018. Students currently enrolled as juniors and seniors will finish the rest of the year, while freshmen and sophomores will be sent back to their neighborhood schools. Less than eight weeks after its doors open with the pomp and circumstance that often follow the highly unpopular governor, the doors will close leaving half the 250-student body without a plan.

This is not the first time these M.E.T.S. students have been displaced. In March,  three Newark charter schools — Newark Prep Charter School, Paulo Freire Charter School and Merit Prep Charter School — were on probation for academic problems. After a school performance review, the NJ Department of Education closed the schools. District officials said 110 of the 140 students in grades 10-12 at M.E.T.S. came from the three closed charter schools — Newark Prep, Paulo Freire or Merit Prep (NJ.com).

In a letter sent home to parents, the Board of Trustees cited their reason, “The M.E.T.S. Newark campus cannot in good conscience say that it is currently equipped to provide the highest level of education to the number of students currently enrolled. High school is such a vital time in a young person’s life, and it would be a detriment to our students to not find a truly appropriate placement for them.”

While no specific details have been provided as to exactly why the school is closing, one report noted, Earlier this month, a 15-year-old student was found with a loaded 9MM handgun at the school. The boy was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon in an educational institution (NJ.com).

The letter to parents also stated that M.E.T.S. teachers and administrators were working to ensure a smooth transition. This is a complete disruption of learning to at least half the students, who now go back to their neighborhood school likely behind their public school classmates because of this disruption. They were allowed to open in August and then realized a few weeks into the school year that they were going to fail. I’m wondering how long it took to realize weren’t going to make it. In New Jersey as in so many other states, there is no oversight, or accountability to charters. M.E.T.S.  got the blessings of the governor to open and seven weeks later there’s a conscience? Irresponsible.

The most hypocritical part of the letter to parents, “We remain committed to our 12th graders and want to ensure you that they will receive an outstanding educational opportunity through the end of this school year that will allow you to graduate from M.E.T.S.” (TapIntoNewark)If your child was a senior, would you trust that?

During Christie’s term as Governor, the number of charter schools has increased from 60 to 89.  The website of the Office of the Governor heralded the charter’s opening:

LEGACY OF UNPARALLELED CHARTER SCHOOL GROWTH: Demonstrating his strong commitment to investing in innovative charter schools that outperform and exceed expectations at every level, Governor Christie today helped cut the ribbon for the new M.E.T.S. Charter School high school in Newark, one of 89 charter schools operating in New Jersey this school year.

Further, the website boasts:

EXPANDING CHARTER SCHOOLS TO PROVIDE HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION TO UNDER-SERVED STUDENTS: Five new schools – two of which are in Newark — are opening this year, approved by the NJ Department of Education after meeting a rigorous, multi-stage approval process. The review process is in place to ensure the school has the structures in place to ensure academic success, equitability, financial viability and organizational soundness.

Christie described charter schools, as “salvation for families” especially those in urban districts. He has set goals for expanding charter school enrollment and proposed a charter school deregulation plan currently pending before the state Board of Education (NJ.com).

Camden Community Charter School, which was slated to have its charter renewed this year was denied because of poor academic performance. (NJ.com). Why have 20 charter schools closed in NJ? Because they were failing. The amount of money taken away from public schools to (partially) fund charter schools has a direct impact on the public school’s ability to do the job of educating students. Every student who walks away from the public school to a charter school takes with him the per pupil spending money. Why are charters allowed to experiment with schools and children? Because the governor lets them. Children should not be part of a social experiment.

Christie wants less accountability and oversight for charters, and to lower the certification standards required for teachers and administrators, at the same time so many charters continue to show their inability to meet the basic academic needs of students in New Jersey who need the most help (NJ.com). 

Deplorable.

These are my reflections for today.

10/20/17

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Even More Charter Scandals

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LOS ANGELES – Over the summer, I wrote about the Los Angeles School Board Elections (Philanthropy and Politics in Education).  With the financial influence of such people as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, there was a lot of purchasing and positioning charter  advocates to the LA School Board.  According to a report in the LA Times this week, School Board President Ref Rodriguez was arrested and charged with three felony counts, “conspiracy to commit a crime, perjury and procuring and offering a false or forged instrument, and he faces 25 misdemeanor charges, one for each donor he allegedly reimbursed.” Rodriguez apparently cashed out on an investment for $26,000 and instructed his cousin Elizabeth Melendrez to deposit the check into an account under his parents name. The complaint in the file claims Rodriguez’s mother “then wrote checks to her son’s friends and relatives, reimbursing them for donations to his campaign” (LA Times).  His first fundraising statement indicated he had raised roughly $51,000. However, prosecutors say 25 of the donations were reimbursed, and that of all the money raised, $24,250 actually came from the candidate himself.

Rodriguez had been under investigation for two years, but apparently nobody on the board knew until last week. News of Rodriguez’s arrest sent shock waves through LA, especially school board members. As we have learned in countless other charter scandals, an indictment does not require anyone to step down from their positions. As one board member said, “To be accused of a crime does not preclude from being able to serve as a board member” (LA Times).  Opponents say this is just another example of the failure of reformers “and their billionaire allies [who] have often been allowed to act with impunity, and above the law(LA Times). If convicted, Rodriguez faces up to four years in prison.  Days after his arrest, Rodriguez stepped down as president but remains on the board.

ALBUQUERQUE –  This week Tim Keller, the New Mexico state auditor released results of an investigation into a likely fraud-embezzlement scandal with the La Promesa Early Learning Center. According to the report, “a half a million dollars was diverted from the School into a former employee’s personal bank account between June 2010 and July 2016. Keller reviewed bank statements and school records and “discovered an apparent forgery scheme that funneled over $475,000 from the School to an employee’s personal bank account. As a result, hundreds of kids were defrauded of funding that should be going to their education. (krwg.org).  The report can be found in its entirety here.

NASHVILLE – According to The Tennessean, a lawsuit was filed against RePublic, a Nashville based charter network. The lawsuit alleges that “RePublic violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending messages through a commercial auto-dialing service without the consent of recipients The Tennessean. One text read: 4th-grade parents, your child is eligible to attend Nashville Academy of Computer Science next year. Please call us at 615-873-0484 to tour our facility! The Tennessean

This is just one example of what happens when student information becomes public record. School board member Will Pinkston said, “The RePublic lawsuit underscores, in real time, the reason why our district needs to get a long overdue handle on student and family data security”The Tennessean.

ATLANTA -The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that criminal charges were filed against Christopher Clemens, the 38 year old founder of Latin Academy. Charges against Clemons include 55 counts of forgery and theft of at least $1.3 million after a Fulton County grand jury indicted him on seven additional charges.  One charge claims $800,000 theft from the school which later closed. Another charge is for thefts of more than $500,000, including money allegedly taken from Latin Grammar School and Latin College Preparatory School (AJC). Clemens is also accused of using the school’s credit card for “dinners, non work-related travel expenses, bonuses to employees, ATM withdrawals and personal entertainment at night clubs” according to the Atlanta police (CBS46).

BATON ROUGE – In an ongoing investigation, police in Baton Rouge have charged Laurel Oaks Charter School principal and founder Shafeeq Syid Shamsid-Deen with cruelty to a juvenile and false imprisonment (The Advocate). “The child told investigators that Shamsid-Dean, 31, told her to ‘go into the closet with the spiders, and if she screamed, he would turn the lights off’ (The Advocate).

One of the teachers who found the child told police that she was “weeping hysterically” when they opened the closet door. The closet contained paint, other supplies, and a small chair that appeared to have been placed there recently because of its cleanliness, police said.

When one of the teachers emailed Shamsid-Deen with objections about the punishment, he responded that the school “will work to make sure we have a proper time-out area for scholars to reset in the cafeteria,” the warrant says (The Advocate).

As a side note, Samsid-Deen has a BA in history and political science and after college,  worked for the Teach for America. He then spent three years with New Mexico’s department of education, overseeing the development of a new teacher evaluation system.

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I recognized that I preach to the choir as many of my readers are connected to public education in some way.   Please share this blog with others who may not be aware of these horrific scandals plaguing so many schools and children across the country. Ignorance is no excuse.

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These are my reflections for today.

9/22/17

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Charter schools as civil rights issue

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Last summer, the NAACP at their annual convention passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools until several issues could be explored and addressed. One of the issues with the NAACP was accountability.  Whether charters are public or private, for-profit or not for-profit, these schools are generally not held to the same standard as public schools, though they are supported in part, by public tax dollars.

“The NAACP has been in the forefront of the struggle for and a staunch advocate of free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the National NAACP Board of Directors. “We are dedicated to eliminating the severe racial inequities that continue to plague the education system” (NAACP.org).

That was October 2016. In June 2017, the organization again called for a moratorium.

“With the expansion of charter schools and their concentration in low-income communities, concerns have been raised within the African American community about the quality, accessibility and accountability of some charters, as well as their broader effects on the funding and management of school districts that serve most students of color” (US News).

The continuance was the result of a year-long study of the educational needs of inner-city children and based on hearings held in New Haven, Memphis, Orlando, Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans and New York.  Testimony came from educators, administrators, school policy experts, charter school leaders, parents, advocates, community leaders and students to gain insight into public education. The report can be found here.

The NAACP expressed concerns that charters perpetuate segregation, subject students to overly harsh discipline practices, divert funding away from traditional public schools and face weak oversight.

Here are the recommendations from the NAACP Board of Directors:

  • More equitable and adequate funding for all schools serving students of color. Education funding has been inadequate and unequal for students of color for hundreds of years. The United States has one of the most unequal school funding systems of any country in the industrialized world. Resources are highly unequal across states, across districts, and across schools, and they have declined in many communities over the last decade. In 36 states, public school funding has not yet returned to pre-2008 levels-before the great recession, and in many states, inner city schools have experienced the deepest cuts. Federal funds have also declined in real dollar terms for both Title I and for special education expenditures over the last decade.
  • School finance reform is needed. To solve the quality education problems that are at the root of many of the issues, school finance reform is essential to ensure that resources are allocated according to student needs. States should undertake the kinds of weighted student formula reforms that Massachusetts and California have pursued, and the federal government should fully enforce the funding-equity provisions in Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • Invest in low-performing schools and schools with significant opportunity to close the achievement gap. Students learn in safe, supportive, and challenging learning environments under the tutelage of well-prepared, caring adults. Participants in every hearing stressed the importance of the type of classroom investments that have consistently been shown to raise student achievement. To ensure that all students receive a high-quality education, federal, state, and local policies need to sufficiently invest in: (1) incentives that attract and retain fully qualified educators, (2) improvements in instructional quality that include creating challenging and inclusive learning environments; and (3) wraparound services for young people, including early childhood education, health and mental health services, extended learning time, and social supports.
  • Mandate a rigorous authoring and renewal process for charters. One way that states and districts can maintain accountability for charter schools is through their regulation of the organizations that authorize charter schools. States with the fewest authorizers have been found to have the strongest charter school outcomes. To do this, states should allow only districts to serve as authorizers, empower those districts to reject applications that do not meet standards, and establish policies for serious and consistent oversight.
  • Eliminate for-profit charter schools. No federal, state, or local taxpayer dollars should be used to fund for-profit charter schools, nor should public funding be sent from nonprofit charters to for-profit charter management companies. The widespread findings of misconduct and poor student performance in for-profit charter schools demand the elimination of these schools. Moreover, allowing for-profit entities to operate schools creates an inherent conflict of interest.

Greg Richmond, President and CEO of Charter Schools Authorizers does not agree with the decision. “A great majority of charter schools are all about opening opportunities for students of color, many of whom were stuck in their failing neighborhood schools until quality charter schools opened their doors” (HuffPost). Richmond believes the moratorium will “hurt the very kids the NAACP represents, the kids on charter school waiting lists, whose parents are desperate for a spot in a school that will help their child succeed (HuffPost).

Here’s my favorite two quotes from Richmond. “Their children need good schools, regardless of who runs them”  And “We believe NAACP can right this bad decision, and join us and others in making schools better for more children of color” (HuffPost).

Look closely at what the NAACP is asking for, and you’ll see it really isn’t anything absurd, and charter advocates should support the recommendations- if their motivation is in the best interest of students.  The organization is not asking to shut down charters, only to ensure they are equitable and accountable. So why the protest from Richmond?

Richmond and others sell charters as a civil rights cause, when they are actually segregating public schools even more. The Network for Public Education (NPE) recently wrote how charter schools and voucher programs result in, “separate, unequal schools that isolate black and Hispanic students, English language learners, and students with disabilities in schools with fewer resources and less experienced teachers.”

This is from the National Education Policy Center (2010)

A national study of charter school operated by education management organizations (EMOs) found only one-fourth of these schools had a racial composition similar to public schools. Over 70% had extreme concentrations of either high-income or low-income students. These schools consistently enrolled a lower proportion of special education children than public schools. And well over half the charters did not have a population of English language learners (ELLs) similar to public schools.

NPE addresses the true civil rights issue of charters and vouchers.

The Civil Rights Movement taught us that separate schools for different children will never be equal. Concentrating low-income and minority students, students whose first language isn’t English, and students with disabilities in segregated schools is not a solution for improving the well-being of all children. We need a public system that is about advancing the well-being of all, not just helping some families and children get ahead while leaving the rest behind (Network for Public Education).

What would motivate the NAACP to call for a moratorium?  What would motivate the Charter Schools Authorizers to speak out against a moratorium? What if we put all our energy into strengthening public schools and stop taking money away from schools for social experiments and service opportunities?

How’s that for an idea?

These are my reflections for today.
8/18/2017
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Did you hear the one about _____?

While many of us are busy enjoying the waning days of summer – here's a few stories you may have missed. Maybe they were buried under so much other news dominating the front pages.

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So what if it doesn't work?  The Brookings Institute compiled data for two years on the effectiveness of voucher programs. Four studies with four different research designs came to the same conclusion: “On average, students that use vouchers to attend private schools do less well on tests than similar students that do not attend private schools” (Newsday).  What the study found was that students who remained in voucher programs for three to four years began to make up for what they lost academically in the first two years. What this means is after three or four years of a voucher education supported by taxpayers, students gain some ground but only end up where they would have been without them.

Florida charter dodges a bullet.  A charter school which had received a failing grade (F) for two consecutive years (and D's before that) has closed  but… wait for it…. will reopen as a private school, thus still able to siphon $170 million from the public schools to open as The Orange Park Performing Arts Academy. Administrators have already assured students and parents that they are all eligible to receive scholarships from the state of Florida (Clay Today Online).

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How much for that Governor?  Carol Burris reported this week just exactly how much money has been contributed to Governor Andrew Cuomo (The Answer Sheet)The corporation with the largest number of charter schools under the control of the SUNY Charter School Institute is the Success Academy charter chain, run by Eva Moskowitz.  Her political action committee, the Great Public Schools PAC, contributed $65,000 to Cuomo in 2011-2012 and another $50,000 to date in 2017. Success Academy Chairman Daniel Loeb, founder and chief executive of Third Rock Capital, and his wife, have directly contributed over $133,000 to Cuomo. Since 2015, Loeb has added $300,000 to Moskowitz’s PAC, and another $270,000 to other PACs that support Cuomo. That’s more than $700,000.

Sorry, kids it's just not working out.  Two homeless students in a New Orleans charter school were suspended for not having the right uniforms (Alternet.org). The two boys, ages 7 and 10 showed up wearing new sneakers their mother borrowed money to buy. The school requires solid black shoes, and when the boys showed up wearing sneakers with check marks on them, they were sent home. "Their mother covered up the checks using a black marker, which she thought took care of the problem, but the school said that wasn’t good enough and unless they were in compliance, they couldn’t come back to school" (Alternet.org).

Show me the money. In the City of Brotherly Love is a charter school call Khepera in North Philly has a pretty bad track record. According to Philly.com Khepera has had some problems:

  • Closed early last year because of financial problems.
  • Teachers are still owed back pay.
  • The landlord has gone to court to kick the school out of its building because of unpaid rent.
  • The company that provides special-education teachers, substitutes, and counselors has filed suit, alleging it is owed $90,000 for its staffing services.
  • Khepera failed to make $1 million in payments to the state teachers’ pension fund.
  • The school failed to submit annual financial reports for 2015 and 2016, as required by state law.

The School Reform Commission (SRC) voted in June to begin the process of revoking Khepera's charter. While the SRC considers the fate of the charter, the school will still receive a $400,000 payment from the School District for the academic school year.

It costs how much?  Politico reports this week that the U.S. Marshals Service will charge the government almost $8 million to protect Secretary DeVos for the next six months.  How does that compare? The past four Education secretaries have been protected by the Education Department’s own small security force.

And finally…

Wait, what???  According to Matt Barnum, in 2015-16 something like half of New York City teachers were evaluated in part, by tests in subjects or of students they didn’t teach. While it may only be 53% of the teachers, that number is actually lower than in previous years (City and State).

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These are my reflections for today.

8/11/2017

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