COLORADO – In the past two years, Stargate Charter School for gifted and talented children has been slapped with eight civil rights complaints. The complaints were related to sexual discrimination and disability discrimination. Complaints include the school’s mishandling of allegations that a former coach groped students and the school’s treatment of students with disabilities. According to Attorney Jacque Phillips, “Many of the problems faced by Stargate are because it does not take seriously its responsibility as a public school to educate all its gifted-and-talented students, including those with disabilities”(Denver Post).
In response to the most recent charges, administrators say they have “learned their lesson and are making changes to better address allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against disabled students” (Denver Post).
CONNECTICUT – Path Academy in Windham is in fear of losing its license for defrauding taxpayers of $1.6 million dollars. According to papers filed in court, the school could not provide documentation for 128 students enrolled at Path. This represents a potential overpayment of $1,573,000 over a two year period. “The failure to maintain records establishing that students who were reported as enrolled in the data used to determine the per pupil grant payment were actually enrolled and attending school constitutes, at a minimum, failure to manage state funds in a prudent or legal manner” (EdVotes.org).
FLORIDA – Fearing a failing grade from the state, Palm Harbor Academy charter school transferred low-performing students to a recently opened private school on the same campus just before the charter students were to begin their state assessments. Those transferred included 13 third graders, and 5 fifth graders. According to the Palm Coast Observer, “Many of the children were multiple grades behind grade level. Another five students in other grades, all at least two grades behind grade level, were also transferred out of Palm Harbor and into the private school at around the same time.”
Palm Harbor Academy governing board chairman the Rev. Gillard Glover said, “First and foremost, we did not move the students,” Glover said, noting that the parents had requested the move. School Board member Andy Dance said Glover was blaming the parents.
“I’m not blaming the parents. We did not talk to the parents at all about moving their children. … We did not in any fashion conduct any kind of campaign, solicit, try to induce parents to take their kids out of Palm Harbor” (Palm Coast Observer).
Dance responded, “But you accepted them” (Palm Coast Observer).
Additionally, students with disabilities who were moved into the private school no longer had access to state-mandated speech and language services. “I’m going to tell you right now there is nothing that can be produced to us to show that those third-grade students’ rights were not violated by moving them,” School Board Attorney Kristin Gavin (Palm Coast Observer).
NORTH CAROLINA – School board members along with local clergy in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are standing together in opposition of HB 514, a recently proposed bill that would contribute to re-segregation of schools because a town-run charter would allow admission preference for children who live in the four towns. Opponents of HB 514 compared it to Southern education policies of the 1950s – implemented to keep schools segregated. In the 1950s these schools were called segregationist academies, created to have a school for white families who refused to allow their children to attend school with black children.
HB 514 was introduced last year by Republican Bill Brawley. He has criticized the Charlotte Meckeinburg board for not providing students with a quality education—one reason he says township parents want their own charter (WFAE).
“Roslyn Mickelson, a professor of sociology at UNC Charlotte says studies have not shown that charter schools are better academically. A report she co-authored this year on state and local charter schools did find that charters are becoming less diverse” (WFAE).
Additionally, Mickelson said of HB 514, “If this bill passes it will be a driver of segregation in public education. It’s not even subtle… The freedom of choice plans were drawn in such ways that they replicated the segregated schools. What we have today is not freedom of choice but charter school choice and the way it is being designed will have the same effect” (WFAE).
PENNSYLVANIA – A Philadelphia attorney, David Schulick, has been convicted of embezzling $800,000 from the Philadelphia School District using a charter school he ran intended to help at-risk students. Instead, Shulick and Chaka Fattah Jr. falsified documents and faked student enrollments to inflate the school budget. “Federal prosecutors said Shulick faked business expenses to cheat on taxes and listed nannies and housekeepers as employees of the school, while using the profits to renovate his vacation home on the Shore and installing a $9,000 set of speakers in his Gladwyne home” (Metro). Shulick may face a prison term at sentencing. At the very least he is expected to be ordered to pay significant restitution to the School District (Metro).
COLORADO – At least four administrators at Wyatt Academy in Denver were recently put on administrative leave after a video captured the school’s justice coordinator encouraged students to throw punches. The elementary school principal, assistant principal, school psychologist along with the justice coordinator were suspended. One source reported Wyatt Academy administrators learned of the fight the same day yet no action was taken until the group released the video. The school board has hired an outside investigator (Seattle Times).
TENNESSEE – New Vision Academy charter school in Nashville is under investigation by the school district for financial irregularities and failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to a report filed by teachers, English language-learning students and students with learning disabilities were not receiving required instructional time. The report also noted students were charged for textbooks even though the school earmarked thousands of dollars for classroom supplies (Tennesseean.com).. The top two executives at New Vision, who are married, make a combined $562,000. Executive director Tim Malone made $312,971 in the 2017, and his wife, LaKesha Malone is New Vision’s second highest ranking executive. earning $250,000 during that same period,(Tennesseean.com).
There were so many scandals in the news from the past few weeks, I found it difficult to choose for the blog. The bottom line is as the charter movement grows, scandals continue to grow exponentially as well. There are patterns, repeats, and new offenses. The underlying theme is misappropriation of funds and faculty and administrators behaving inappropriately and/or illegally.
It’s important to know about the scandals plaguing charter schools, and to be aware of the current administration’s drive to create more.
These are my reflections for today.
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