Governor “Charter School”

8 Jun

I recently commented on a Diane Ravitch post writing, “I love Governor ‘Moon-beam’; I detest Governor ‘Charter-School;’” referring to Governor of California, Jerry Brown.

Ed Source recently reported:

“Brown started two charter schools in Oakland when he was mayor of the city, and has fought, through vetoes, attempts to encroach on their independence or dilute protections in the state’s charter school enabling law. This year, he vetoed AB 787, which would have banned for-profit charters, which operate primarily online charter schools. Brown said proponents failed to make a case for the bill, and the bill’s ambiguous wording could have been interpreted to restrict the ability of nonprofit charter schools to continue using for-profit vendors.”

Two consistent features of modern education governance are that politicians and business men who have power enforce their own particular biases even though lacking both educational experience and knowledge. The second feature is education policy is NOT based on research. As Anthony Cody describes, “Sadly, Lubienski, Debray, and Scott discovered that ‘research played virtually no part in decision making for policymakers, despite their frequent rhetorical embrace of the value of research.’”

Governor Brown (in the face of mounting evidence) is more concerned about the future of the charter industry than he is about fraud and the diminution of public schools. He obviously believes that public schools are failing and that privatized schools are the path to better education. Neo-liberal philosophy increasingly embraced by the Democratic party postulates that “private business will always outperform government institutions.”

Is it Cyber-Charter or Cyber-Fraud?

The private businesses being protected by Brown, cyber-schools, are increasingly seen as extremely poor quality and more fraud than education alternative. In February Steven Rosenfeld reported, “For the second time in three months, the Walton Family Foundation—which has spent more than $1 billion to create a quarter of the nation’s 6,700 public charter schools—has announced that all online public school instruction, via cyber charter schools, is a colossal disaster for most K-12 students.”

Steven Singer an education commentator and activist from Pennsylvania stated it succinctly, “If you’re a parent, you’d literally be better off having your child skip school altogether than sending her to a cyber charter. LITERALLY! But if you’re an investor, online charters are like a free money machine. Just press the button and print however much cash you want!”

The nation’s largest cyber-charter chain is Michael Milken’s K-12 Inc. (remember his junk bond fraud conviction) The state legislation, AB 787, that Brown vetoed was inspired by the suspicious activities of California Virtual Academy and its contracted management organization K-12 Inc.

Since California Virtual Academy is a non-profit it is supposed to operate independently from its contracted management company, K-12 Inc. In a series of articles focused of the failure of California’s on-line charter schools, Jesse Califati at the San Jose Mercury News described:

“According to the nonprofit’s application for tax-exempt status, California Virtual Academy at San Mateo has a board of directors whose members should be willing to cut ties with the company if they feel the school is getting a raw deal. Indeed, the application specifies that all agreements between K12 and the school are the result of ‘arm’s-length’ negotiations.

“But a review of minutes from the 2014-15 school year’s board meetings and records of the board’s relationship to administrators hand-picked by K12 suggest the board has little or no independence from the company. A K12 employee led the board meetings, and all 35 resolutions she encouraged the board to endorse won unanimous approval.

“The board’s open public meetings are held during the workday in a conference room or around an administrator’s desk in the Daly City-based Jefferson Elementary School District, which authorized the academy’s charter. And board members rarely attend the meetings in person. They usually just call in from home.

“All told, the board spent an average of 13 minutes in each meeting.”

 In another piece Califati recounted:

 “Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, worked for K12 as a consultant before Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the post in 2011. In March 2015, the board voted against shuttering a school run by the company that California Department of Education staff said should close because it was in financial disarray, marking the only time such a recommendation has been ignored.”

Privatized Systems Are Unstable and Increase Costs

The well-known education commentator Peter Greene states:

“Charters close because charter schools are businesses, and businesses close when it is not financially viable for them to stay open.

“The free market will never work for a national education system. Never. Never ever.

“A business operating in a free market will only stay in business as long as it is economically viable to do so. And it will never be economically viable to provide a service to every single customer in the country.”

 Center for Media and Democracy “has calculated, nearly 2,500 charter schools have shuttered between 2001 and 2013, affecting 288,000 American children enrolled in primary and secondary schools, and the failure rate for charter schools is much higher than for traditional public schools.”

In addition to the unstable nature of free market charter schools, it is not possible to run a public education system and a privatized education system for the same amount of money as just a public system. In order to maintain the same level of support to classrooms and satisfy the quest for public school choice, it will require taxes to be increased to finance the dual system.

MGT Consulting conducted a research study of the charter school costs to Los Angeles Unified School Districts (LAUSD). In addition to the over $500 million dollars in lost revenue from students leaving the system, LAUSD incurred almost $100 million dollars in un-recouped administrative costs to oversee the charter schools. The school district has more than 40 people assigned to state mandated charter school oversight responsibilities.

A researcher at Columbia University Teachers College, Jason B. Cook looked into local community cost effects spurred by charter school competition. Among the discoveries he documents:

“A key finding of this study is that charter competition also decreases the TPSD [Traditional Public School District] revenues raised through property taxes by depressing appraised district-level residential property values.  I also find that charter competition causes districts to spend less on instructional and other current expenditures and spend more on new construction capital outlays. This reallocation is more than a simple proportional change. A one percentage point increase in charter competition increases the overall amount that TPSDs spend on capital outlays by 7.3 percent.”

 “Successful Charters” Have Glaring Flaws

The KIPP charter chain has approximately 100 schools and is widely considered to be a charter school success story. Center for Media and Democracy looked at their tax records from 2013 and saw these highlights:

“KIPP received more than $18 million in grants from American tax dollars and more than $43 million from other sources, primarily other foundations;

“KIPP spent nearly $14 million on compensation, including more than $1.2 million on nine executives who received six-figure salaries, and nearly $2 million more on retirement and other benefits;

“KIPP also spent over $416,000 on advertising and a whopping $4.8 million on travel; it paid more than $1.2 to the Walt Disney World Swan and Resort;

“It also paid $1.2 million to Mathematica for its data analysis; that’s the firm that was used to try to rebut concerns about KIPP’s performance and attrition rates.”

Mary Ann Zehr wrote about a Western Michigan study of KIPP for Education Week:

“KIPP charter middle schools enroll a significantly higher proportion of African-American students than the local school districts they draw from, but 40 percent of the black males they enroll leave between grades 6 and 8, says a new nationwide study by researchers at Western Michigan University.

 “’The dropout rate for African-American males is really shocking,’ said Gary J. Miron, a professor of evaluation, measurement, and research at the university, in Kalamazoo, and the lead researcher for the study. “Kipp is doing a great job of educating students who persist, but not all who come.”

In a related story the headline on Mike Klonsky’s latest post says, “Chicago neighborhood schools, not charters, [are] the driving force behind rising grad rates.” Based on findings by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research, Mike continues, “Well, it’s that time of year when the media spotlight is on all the privately-run charter schools that supposedly enroll 100% of their students in a college program. Of course they fail to mention they mean 100% of the 25% or fewer that make it from freshman year to the graduation ceremony.”

If the charter school generated dropout students are not misplaced by the dual system like the thousands of unaccounted for students in New Orleans, it is the public schools which must take them in.

It’s Not About Children; It’s About the Benjamin’s

Charter schools were originally considered an experiment. After a quarter of a century of doing considerable harm to local communities, and showing no unambiguously documented education successes (not even matching public school performance on testing), common sense dictates that we end this experiment. Unfortunately, charter schools have become an industry and feckless organizations like the California Charter School Association (CCSA) are spending millions of dollars to privatize public schools.

During the run-up to the recent California primary (June 7), it was an unpleasant surprise to learn that CCSA was spending $300,000 where I live on the four San Diego County Board of Education seats that were on the ballot. Diane Ravitch shared how much money the national charter industry was spending in California; posting on her widely followed blog, “There you have it: with all the issues facing the state, one-third of the $28 million spent by outside groups on state races is coming from charter advocates.” Charter schools have become an industrial complex. It is not about improved schools or choice; it’s only about the money.

Caprice Young was the first president of the California Charter Schools Association. Today she is leading the Magnolia Public Schools, a California Charter School chain that is known to be part of the controversial Turkish Imam, Fethullah Güllen’s charter school empire. The Los Angeles based education activist Robert D. Skeels posted:

“Magnolia, its parent Pacifica Institute, and their cult leader Fethullah Gülen are all high profile Armenian Genocide deniers. To make matters worse, their entire public relations campaign is paid for with money that is supposed to be used in classrooms. Magnolia enlisted the help of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) for this Gülen misinformation campaign, and CCSA’s “CEO” Jed Wallace is quoted in the press release in which misrepresentations about both Magnolia’s connections to the Gülen Network, and their audit results appear.

“The CCSA is currently attacking an Armenian candidate running for California Assembly, spending obscene amounts of money. That the CCSA, Jed Wallace, and Caprice Young are simultaneously attacking Armenian candidates for office, while working hand-in-hand with organizations that actively deny the Armenian Genocide is highly disconcerting.”

Last night (June 7) I heard Donald Trump call America’s schools “failed.” That must be the same lie that Governor “Charter-School” believes. America’s public schools are amazing. Even after two decades of denigration and slander by elites, our public schools are still the foremost education system in the world. Don’t allow greed and foolishness to destroy this bedrock of American democracy.

 

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