HARTFORD—Charter school advocates – including a member of the city’s Board of Ed – clashed with union reps Wednesday over a plan that would take $27 million from the New Haven public schools and give it to charter schools.
The action took place before the state Board of Education’s Legislation and Bylaws Committee, which convened Wednesday morning to consider a charter school funding proposal by the education watchdog group ConnCAN.
ConnCAN asked the committee to recommend legislation that would shift the state to a “Money Follows The Child” model over the course of four years, beginning in the 2011-2012 school year.
The charter proponents didn’t end up convincing the committee. But they ended up prompting a public debate over the course of public education—and they vowed to keep pushing their plan at the state Capitol.
ConnCAN CEO Alex Johnston (pictured above), who also sits on the New Haven Board of Education, said the proposal aims to give charter schools the equitable funding they deserve – and knock down a hurdle that’s holding Connecticut back from winning the federal “Race to the Top” competition.
Connecticut’s 18 charter schools receive a $9,300-per-student grant from the state.
ConnCAN’ proposes to replace that funding system with a new one. It would work like this: When a child leaves a public school district to attend a charter school, the district would pay the charter school to educate the child. The state would deduct the money from the town’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant and send it directly to the charter school. The shift would be gradual: the state would cover the entire cost in year one, 60 percent of the cost in year two, and 40 percent in year three. In year four, cities would pay the full whack.
That would mean that in the 2014-2015 school year, New Haven would lose $27.2 million, or 19 percent of its ECS grant, to charter schools, according to ConnCAN. That figure assumes 103 New Haven public school kids will switch to charter schools by September 2014. State Department of Education staff called that a conservative estimate, meaning New Haven could stand to lose even more money.
The idea elicited “outrage” at Wednesday’s meeting from American Federation of Teachers President Sharon Palmer (pictured). Palmer said the state should not take resources away from public school kids. She balked at a contract between Hartford and Achievement First charter school that she said cost the city too much.
“There is not enough money to go around,” Palmer told the committee. She later added that the AFT endorsed the creation of the original charter school system—as an incubator for innovation that would then be shared with the public school districts. That sharing isn’t happening as was originally intended, she argued.
Mark Waxenberg of the Connecticut Education Association echoed her remarks. He called ConnCAN’s proposal an unfunded “local mandate” that serves only to further the agenda of charter school proponents, to the detriment of other public schools.
New Haven’s Dacia Toll (pictured) swung back at Palmer’s remarks. Toll is president of Achievement First, a non-profit that runs a network of eight charter schools in Connecticut, including its celebrated flagship Amistad Academy in New Haven. She said union opposition boils down to the fact that charter schools don’t tend to be unionized. People should focus on what’s best for families and kids, not for unions she argued.
“When parents have made choices and that’s where their children are going, we think money should follow the child,” Toll said.
Joe Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, joined the union leaders’ opposition to ConnCAN’s idea. He said when a student leaves public school, it doesn’t save the school that much money – the school is still responsible for transportation costs, and still has to pay to keep up the facility. He warned against draining school districts’ budgets.
“If you go forward with this proposal,” he added, “it would create an adversarial relationship between us and charter schools.”
After a public hearing, the committee decided not to pass along the proposal on to the full Board of Education.
At the prompting of education Commissioner Mark McQuillan, the committee agreed not to pursue the specific proposal, but to outline basic principles that would inform a broader discussion about reforming funding for all types of schools, including magnets.
Johnston said ConnCAN isn’t giving up yet. He plans to submit written remarks to the full board before its meeting next week. Then he’ll take his case to the legislature, which reconvenes next Wednesday.
Foot in Both Camps
Johnston, a longtime critic of New Haven’s low-performing schools, was recently appointed to the city school board to provide a watchdog’s perspective as the city launches an ambitious school reform campaign.
He was asked after the meeting about whether he feels he has divided loyalties: On the one hand, he advocates for charter schools through ConnCAN. On the other, he’s on the governing body of New Haven’s public school district.
Johnston stressed that New Haven and other districts wouldn’t pay a dime under the Money Follows the Child proposal until the 2012-2013 school year. New Haven needs to look at its ECS funding anyway, he said. The current setup leaves the city “vulnerable” because he state has stopped using the ECS formula to divvy up ECS funds. It has kept ECS funding flat or made percentage increases, instead of going based on enrollment. New Haven’s enrollment has been dwindling, Johnston said, leaving it “vulnerable” to a loss in funding if the ECS formula is applied.
While the proposal he supported Wednesday would to drain millions of dollars from the district, Johnston said it would benefit New Haven in the long run. He said the charter school funding proposal is just part of a “comprehensive approach” that ConnCAN is pushing for.
There’s an “urgent need” to fix charter school funding now, he said, because a failure to make charter school reforms could cost the state 24 out of 500 points on the competitive Race to the Top grant application process. (Read more about that here.)
The charter school funding proposal can’t be viewed alone, Johnston said. ConnCAN plans to push for a broader Money Follows The Child system, where New Haven would be paid for the suburban students who attend the city’s many magnet schools. The group advocates weighting school funding to account for factors like poverty and English-as-a-second-language learners.
The full reform agenda is detailed in a recent ConnCAN report entitled, “The Tab: How Connecticut Can Fix its Dysfunctional Education Spending System to Reward Success, Incentivize Choice and Boost Student Achievement.”
If those reforms are adopted, Johnston said, New Haven would not have to rely solely on its own tax base to support the school system, because suburban students at magnet schools would bring in money.
“One of the best long-term strategies for New Haven,” Johnston said, is to set up a system of strong schools that “attract students from around the region.”
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 27, 2010 5:45pm
And the ConnCAN proposal doesn’t go far enough as it recommends a 4-year reduction in funding for the school which loses it students. How many non-unionized employees at private companies get 4 years of severance? And how many companies can expect their dissatisfied customers to keep paying them for four years after those customers have taken their business elsewhere?
And for all you state and local taxpayers out there, how does it sit with you that we continue to pay the district for students that left a long time ago?
It is this kind of systemic corruption and waste that turns people against government and politicians.
For those who continue to fight to preserve the status quo and desire only incremental change, your efforts will fail over time.
And as parents wake up to the reality of the situation, and the battle for all children is slowly won, history will not be kind to you who today are “blocking the school house door” against children and their families. Is this the sort of legacy that you wish to own?
posted by: City Hall Watch on January 27, 2010 5:52pm
ConnCan has it right. The money should follow the child. Right now, CT taxpayers are paying twice for educating the same child if that child is enrolled in a charter school. We should only be paying once. Further, to keep compensating a public school for a phantom student encourages waste and pays for waste. If you have fewer students in public schools, it should cost less and the school board should look for economies that reflect a lower census - fewer teachers, fewer aides, fewer administrators, fewer lunches, consolidating bus routes and so on. Keep in mind that if the public schools were doing what we’ve been paying them to do all these years, there wouldn’t be charter schools and we wouldn’t be having this debate. As for the CEA - there is no greater defender of incompetence than this organization and no greater bleeder of the state budget. When it comes to education budgets, CT outspends nearly everybody in the entire country. The question is what have we got to show for it?
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 27, 2010 6:51pm
I told people this was going to happen. I been studying this school reform and found it is nothing more then a corpoorate take over. Read the real deal on this.
Sunday, September 27, 2009 The Charter Schools Gamble September 25-7, 2009 The Charter Schools Gamble Speculating on Education By DANIEL WOLFF
“We’re not speculators. We’re investors.” So says the CEO of a real estate trust that recently sunk some $170 million into 22 charter schools.
Which got me wondering: why charter schools? How do they end up looking like sound investments?
It turns out the buyer, Entertainment Properties Trust (EPR), buys real estate nationwide, with its total portfolio worth about $2.6 billion. Over half of that is in megaplex movie theaters. EPR’s stated goal is to be “the nation’s leading destination entertainment, entertainment-related, recreation and specialty real estate company.”
So why charter schools?
According to EPR’s website: “We understand that education is among the most vital experiences of life. Movie theatres and charter schools are very different in many ways, but they are alike in this respect: People choose to patronize them. Our experience in financing specialized real estate enables us to capitalize on properties that people choose to visit.”
EPR, based in Kansas City, Missouri, consists of sixteen full-time employees. David Brain, President and CEO, says his favorite part of the job is: “solving problems and crafting a deal, and creating something really new.” The deals that EPR crafts follow corporate policy: their tenants must sign a long-term mortgage or something called a triple-net lease where they (the tenants) pay “substantially all expenses associated with the operation and maintenance of the property.” EPR’s charter schools have these triple-net leases. EPR is the landlord; the tenant pays for maintaining the buildings and running the classrooms.
In this case, the tenant is a charter-school operator called Imagine. Founded in 2004, it now runs 74 schools from New York to Arizona involving some 36,000 students. Imagine says its goal is “giving the families quality educational choice” by establishing “independently operated public schools.”
Charters are public schools in that the funding comes from state and local school taxes. Imagine gets a certain amount of money for each of its charter students based on the home district’s per-student expenses. The more kids Imagine enrolls, the more money it gets (and the less goes to traditional public schools.) Over the last few years, charters have been successfully attracting more and more students: in central Ohio, for example, Imagine’s budget doubled in 2005-06 and doubled again the next year.
The money pays for teachers, supplies, maintenance, etc. But the problem charter schools have is getting the capital to buy or lease buildings. The vice-president of policy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools calls it “the biggest challenge.”
What Imagine did was start a real estate arm: Schoolhouse Finance LLC. In central Ohio, for example, this financial arm purchased a building for $1.5 million with a $4.6 million mortgage. But tying up their money in property ends up limiting how much charter schools can expand. So Imagine turned around and sold its buildings as part of a larger sale-lease transaction with a company called JER Investors Trust Inc. This brought in $5.6 million over Imagine’s original purchase price.
Imagine did a similar deal in Indiana, where its real estate arm made $2.6 million on an old YWCA it bought for $1.9 million. In fact, real estate plays a key role in Imagine’s charter school operations: its investments in buildings went from $19 million in 2005 to $297 million in 2008—suggesting that charter schools can turn the challenge of finding classrooms to their advantage.
But why does a company like JER think charter school buildings are a good investment?
JER’s founder, Joe Robert, made his killing in the savings and loan fiasco of the 1980’s. Through his connections with the Federal Savings and Loan Association, Robert was awarded the largest contract ever at the time ($120 million in assets) to manage and sell the government’s “troubled” properties. He cleaned up, moving from there to handling assets for himself and other investors. By 1986, he was managing a portfolio worth some $7.5 billion
posted by: streever on January 27, 2010 7:14pm
Is anyone doubting Johnston now? I think he’s proven he’s an independent voice more times than I can count.
Joe Cirasuolo said: “If you go forward with this proposal,” he added, “it would create an adversarial relationship between us and charter schools.”
How does he think charter schools currently feel, having awful funding and still doing amazing work? There is already grounds for resentment. This proposal would only make those who take more then they deserve (public schools) and give the money more equitably. The people who have been taking the lions share may feel some resentment, but that is their mistake.
Toll & Johnston are right on. This provides a path for New Haven to improve, and to make the surrounding communities pay for what they use. If we can truly build world-class schools (and I hope that Cirasuolo and the unions believe this) then we will certainly attract students from surrounding towns—and if those towns tax money goes to New Haven schools as a result, then all the better.
posted by: verify-v1 on January 27, 2010 9:35pm
It would be easier to wholeheartedly support the ConnCAN “Money Follows the Child” plan if the money weren’t trapped in the public schools, charter or otherwise. If the goal is indeed high-achieving schools, money should naturally follow children to private schools as well. Over time ConnCAN’s commitment to charter schools might prove as big an obstacle to real school reform as the union’s commitment to traditional public schools. Regardless it will be interesting to see how this pans out.
posted by: Corporate Takeover on January 27, 2010 11:46pm
3/5s is right on the money on this one, pardon the pun.
Alex Johnston should resign from the NHBOE immediately. ...
This is a public money grab pure and simple. The Charters built an unsustainable model that relied on corporate donations for seed money with the ultimate goal to grab the public money and here is the grab. It is nothing more than a public bailout of a poorly constructed and unsustainable business model.
Charter Schools are well funded by the state and are further supported by local districts which are required by law to transport and supply special education and other services. The only reason they need more money is that they have built a model that is above their means and they can no longer hit up the same Westport hedge fund managers again and again.
The Private Schools will soon figure out this game and be at the troth too leaving public schools which education the vast majority of CT children behind, yet again. The slippery slope is tough to stop once you start sliding.
The report uses the usual fuzzy math and compares apples to oranges and then to pears and grapefruits when needed all to support the goal to put the Charters to the head of the line. When your citations are to the author and Pro-Charter organizations you have to wonder whether even they can read their own reports with a straight face.
The only truth in the report is that the State funding formula has never worked and has been underfunded since its inception. Moving the Charters to the head of the line when the other public districts have been shorted for 20 years of their statutory funding is absurd.
The State should fully fund the Education Cost Sharing Grant first and meet the statutory obligation for once. It should also finally call Johnston and Toll on their smoke and mirrors show which is designed to lift up the few at the expense of the rest.
posted by: Leslie Blatteau on January 27, 2010 11:47pm
i question the use of the phrase “awful funding” to describe charter schools. according to its 2009 annual report, achievement first raised over $4 million in philanthropic funds. it’s tricky to compare the budgets/spending of these two very different beasts. should the public school system cut back on its bureaucratic waste? by all means! but not at the expense of working people, the members of the teachers’ unions, who commit mental, physical and emotional energy to do what we love: teach.
posted by: JMS on January 28, 2010 5:45am
“This provides a path for New Haven to improve, and to make the surrounding communities pay for what they use.”
Sounds good to me.
posted by: Not Born Yesterday on January 28, 2010 9:44am
... That Johnston is on the New Haven BOE is absolutely a conflict of interest. BOE members have a fiduciary responsibility to local taxpayers—not to promoting charter schools that seek to replace the real public schools where the overwhelming majority of kids attend (and ALL special education and ELL kids, which the charters of course don’t want because they’d cost too much and lower their test scores). And where’s that “definitive research” that shows there’s any significant difference in student performance by charter students, once all other factors are appropriately controlled for? None! Just the ... self-promotional “research” of ConnCAN that is being lent credibility by the press continually quoting them and doing glam pieces about!
posted by: Darnell on January 28, 2010 11:59am
The main responsibility of the BOE is to educate children. If they are not doing that, there should be competition, and parental choice. I am a proud product of the NH School system, Ivy Street School, Lincoln Bassett, Sheridan and Hillhouse. I did attend St John’s for two years in elementary school, which accelerated my education. My daughter is currently a student at Amistad, and I truly believe that they are doing an excellent job, especially at the elementary school level. The test scores don’t lie. The school system today is not the same as 30 years ago, for several reasons, not all of which are the school system’s fault.
Despite whose fault it is, why should all children be stuck in a system that does not work.
With the way money is spent on New Haven schools (I believe 16 people make over 100k at wilbur cross and they have NO policy for misbehavior except 3 day detentions) I am amazed that anyone could oppose this. NHPS spends money poorly on far too many bureaucrats. I understand the fear—that the money will continue to be poorly spent only with less of it they’ll fire teachers instead of paying administrators sensibly—but I don’t think anyone can actually claim that, for instance, Common Ground is adequately or fairly funded.
they have to work incredibly hard to raise money in addition to run their school. They certainly don’t have a large number of administrators making $100k.
While I understand the legitimate fear that the NHPS will punish the wrong people when they have to share funding with other worthy schools, I do think it’s fair & equitable to equally fund the charter schools like Common Ground.
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 28, 2010 2:36pm
For those of you who actually want to see an AF school for yourself so that you can make up your own mind about high performing charters, the next public visitor morning at Amistad Academy is Friday, Feb. 5th at 7:45am. Call first to reserve your spot and be there on time. You don’t want to miss morning circle.
posted by: Hmmmmmm Conflict you say on January 28, 2010 2:51pm
How much of a conflict is it that our wonderful Mayor is on the board at Amistad? I would also like to point out that the public school system in no way maintains any of the charter schools. The extent that New Haven public schools support charters are as follows: busing, speech therapy, and allowing them to participate in the city run lottery. There was a time when they provided lunch and school nurses until they took that away. The charters are forced to raise a ton of money to keep their schools open. The money will run out one day and we will all be sitting around saying “what happened” This is a shame. Fund the schools that are performing well and have a track record to prove it. As a parent and tax paying citizen of New Haven this is once again some BS!!! The unions are only worried about themselves and NOT the kids. Sicking.
posted by: angelo on January 28, 2010 3:24pm
Hey, Darnell - the test scores do lie if they are measuring different kids. BCAC, in Bridgeport, did a study comparing apples to apples and the scores were similar. As others said, ELL and special Ed makes a world of difference. When the charters say their scores are better, they don’t talk about the ways they are cooking the books.
posted by: John Wysolmerski on January 28, 2010 11:39pm
Closing the education gap and improving the performance of New Haven’s public schools is the biggest local civil rights/social justice issue of our time and it is absolutely necessary for any true hope to improve crime and poverty rates in the future. As a physician, I can tell you it is also impossible to equalize health outcomes between populations with huge disparities in the quality of their education. I also don’t see how citizens can actively engage in their government without the ability to understand complex problems. I don’t think that it is a terrible stretch to say that a great public school system is the only way to get our city to finally realize its wonderful potential. So, if one accepts this premise, then it always amazes me that there is not more sense of urgency about this issue. Who cares if charter schools benefit from some self-selection bias. It may take more organized families with more desire for their kids to apply to these schools but that is not the same as cherry picking and I get very irritated to keep seeing this charge thrown out in the comments on every story about this issue. If Amistad or a school like it makes a difference in the attitudes and performance of its students then by all means the school should get the full funding. And what is this “real public school” BS?? Charter schools are public schools, just ones that have a different administrative structure. This is a crisis and we need to try different things and reward those things that show promise. It would appear that the Achievement first folks have a track record of getting results and we should try to apply what they have learned to as many kids as we can as fast as we can. If that means changing the rules about funding charters then we should do it without delay. If it doesn’t work change them back. But remember New Haven’s future depends on improving the education of as many students as quickly as we can so that they have more opportunity to reach their potential and live productive lives.
posted by: Distressed Educator on January 29, 2010 12:20am
State & Federal Money SHOULD follow the students as long as they are in public schools.
Sharon Palmer, president of the AFT, cannot have it both ways. Charter schools in CT are public schools. The money the state & federal govt pay to educate public school children should follow the child for as long as that child is in a public school. If the charter schools can figure out how to successfully educate children, the same children who cannot learn in the regular public schools; the money sent to the towns to educate those children should go to the school system that is educating those children. Why should charter schools have to teach NHPS or any other public school system how to successfully educate children?
Most of the regular public schools are laden down by over-paid administrators who are unnecessary to educating children. Put more teachers in the classrooms; increase the teacher to student ratio and improve the educational outcomes for the regular public school student. All these inner-city public school administrators do are gripe about what they don’t have.
If a child who is failing at Ross-Woodward can go to Amistad and thrive academically, why shouldn’t NHPS have to hand over the money for that child’s education (now being done by Amistad) to Amistad? It certainly should be. If NHPS does provide transportation, etc. that should be deducted; however, if they do not, every cent should go to Amistad. When someone gets fired for not doing work, that person does not continue getting paid.
Instead of the AFT griping about charter schools not sharing their success strategies with the public schools, the public schools administrators should get off their overpaid, nonchalant behinds and learn to be effective teachers and leaders.
CT should close down all of the poorly performing public schools, hand over the facilities and resources to people like Alex Johnson, Achievement First and other successful educators and administrators, so that our children will get a good education. Achievement First is drawing from the same pool of students as the regular public school systems in Bpt., Hartford and New Haven.
Mr. Cirasuolo, there is already an adversarial relationship between your group, the incompetent public schools, and the successful charter schools. You are just resentful that most of the charter schools are succeeding where so many of the public schools are failing. Students are bored and resentful of teachers who don’t care. Look at what happened in New Haven recently when someone who should not have been in the classroom at all (as a substitute teacher) was paid $45K of tax payers’ dollars to go away quietly. He was the offender, but he was paid $45,000. Why was he in the classroom in the first place? I doubt he would have been at an Achievement First school. Unqualified people are in our public school classrooms.
Commissioner Mark McQuillan, shame on you. Don’t you want to preside over a state of successful schools? Or is it that the suburban schools are succeeding, so the big urban schools are less important? We all know that poor people have no power; they cannot afford to move. If what is happening in Waterbury, Bpt., Hartford, New Haven and New London was happening in Simsbury, Madison, Roxbury, New Milford and other wealthy suburbs, the problem would have been addressed and resolved a long time ago. Look at Hooker and Edgewood and other well regarded NHPS. Look at Wilbur Cross and Career High. Look at the student populations at these schools.
“If those reforms are adopted, (as set out by ConnCAN) Johnston said, New Haven would not have to rely solely on its own tax base to support the school system, because suburban students at magnet schools would bring in money. One of the best long-term strategies for New Haven,” Johnston said, is to set up a system of strong schools that “attract students from around the region.” What Alex Johnson and some of the Achievement First people have over Sharon Palmer, Cirasuolo, and others in the education arena is that Alex Johnson is really a bright, well educated person. He is advocating for poor children to get a good education; sadly, he will likely get frustrated and give up. It is hard to fight against entrenched, negative mindset and ignorance. Good luck Alex and watch your back.
posted by: Teacher Gal on January 29, 2010 7:01am
posted by: angelo on January 28, 2010 2:24pm
Hey, Darnell - the test scores do lie if they are measuring different kids.
Darnell, I have to agree with Angelo on this one. Test scores are only 1 measure of a good school. I work at a school that does not have great test scores but has many other great programs, before and after school that offer students a safe environment, academic support and snacks.
Kids that go to CharterSchools usually have parent advocates that are looking for change. They tend to be more supportive and in the know. Therefore, that child is advantaged. What about those that do not have that advantage? There test scores will most likely be higher, not because they are charter school students, but because they have caring parents who help with homework, set limits on how children spend their time, and what programs they are allowed to watch and play. That is what sets them apart.
Are we to take monies away from the schools that they are left with? I don’t like that argument and feel as another writer does that there is just not enough money to split up. All schools need money and we should not be fighting about who gets it, charter or public! Let’s not take what little NHPS gets and give it to charter schools.
posted by: there, their, they're on January 29, 2010 9:24am
“Teacher Gal” needs a usage review.
The arguments against funding successful charters are lame, at best. The New Haven Schools have too many overpaid, ineffective bureaucrats.
Trim the fat in New Haven. Reallocate money to schools and teachers that WORK. Energize and empower those who demonstrate the ability to help our disadvantaged kids achieve at high academic levels.
There are many answers (public and charter) for closing the achievement gap. They all have the common denominator of excellent, well educated teachers who work hard.
Kids lose if the union and school district continue to dig in, hold on to outdated practices, and stifle change.
New Haven - don’t let this continue to happen. Get involved in reform (if you can) and speak up. Now is the time.
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 29, 2010 10:16am
Teacher Gal, We’ve heard that argument before about the charter school difference being the “involved parent”.
So my question to you is: How is it that for eight years, HUNDREDS of children transferred to Amistad in the fifth grade performing two years behind grade level? If the real difference is the parents, then why were these kids failing before they got to Amistad? And why did their performance suddenly rocket when they entered Amistad?
Same kids. Same parents. DIFFERENT school.
posted by: S Poole on January 29, 2010 1:17pm
“So why charter schools?
According to EPR’s website: “We understand that education is among the most vital experiences of life. Movie theatres and charter schools are very different in many ways, but they are alike in this respect: People choose to patronize them. Our experience in financing specialized real estate enables us to capitalize on properties that people choose to visit.”
Truth be told, traditional public schools are failing more children than they are providing with a suitable education to prepare students for college. Parent’s are afraid to send their kids to the same schools which they once attended. Unionized teachers are protected regardless of their effectiveness. A public education 20 years ago is much different from today’s public education. Teaching has switched from a vocation to a profession.
Charter school teachers are incentivized and celebrated when their students perform well. Social affiliation and political allignment can (and often will) ensure a teacher’s longevity. Teacher turnover is a significant problem with Charter schools. The major draw of a charter school is the strict regiment of operational procedures.
I agree with many people who have responded to this article. There is truth in all of the comments here. As a former employee of both entities, I believe that variety is the spice of life. Parents have the first and last word about what is right for their children, period.
As far as where the money goes, each child should receive the same amount dedicated to their education, regardless of where they go. This should include private and boarding schools (with family income stipulations). All schools have a certain number of seats to fill and every child and his/her parents will not be granted their first choice. The nature of education is competition. May the fittest survive.
posted by: Cross Teacher on January 29, 2010 2:23pm
Streever, usually you are a rational voice in the cacophony of posts, but this time you are making gross generalizations. “...they have NO policy for misbehavior except 3 day detentions” is patently false, at Wilbur Cross or anywhere in the New Haven Public Schools. The latest press concentrated on the recent rash of 3-day suspensions at Wilbur Cross. To state that this is the district (or even the Wilbur Cross) policy is faulty reasoning at best, hysterical falsehood at worst.
John W and Distressed Educator—-as well as the usual suspects
John W—-you might want to stick to talking about things you understand and Distressed Educator—-you can’t really be an educator with the lack of knowledge you exhibit in this forum
Here is how easy it is—-THE STUDENTS ARE DIFFERENT AND THE RULES ARE DIFFERENT but to appease all you doubters—-
Some on this sight say we should give our schools to Achievement First or someone like that—-Ok—-did you hear me—OK we will—-Just ask and we will make it happen—SAME KIDS AND THE SAME RULES—I got a feeling we won’t be getting any takers———I’ll be waiting—Tom
posted by: NewHavenTeacher on January 29, 2010 5:45pm
Please check your facts. New Haven’s charter schools have sizable ELL and Special education populations. Students are selected through blind lottery run by NHPS.
posted by: The Fix is In on January 29, 2010 8:12pm
What about the Charter School kids who come back to the NHPS system every year? Do you refund the money under this new system when your silver bullet does not work?
Every year more students choose to come back to New Haven Public Schools from the New Haven Charters. Some of these kids are successful students who are just tired of the regimented teach to the test at all costs robotic program you run where they are nothing more than a number and a means to access public money. They then remain successful students, and in fact improve, under New Haven instruction.
Then there is the other much larger group that come back every year, mysteriously between November and the CMT and CAPT testing in the Spring (which is after the State counts them as your student and gives you the state funding for the year). Amazingly these students have not been saved by your model and are at or below basic levels when they return to New Haven schools and take the high stakes test to be counted in the New Haven numbers. Perhaps the desire of these students and families to leave your school has something to do with the Scarlet letter colored shirt that you force low performing or non-compliant students to wear such that they become a focus point of ridicule and ire of other students and staff. Do well and drink the Kool Aid and you get one shirt, do not carry the weight to support the fiction and you get another.
Are you thinking of the children first when you drop them like a bad habit after they do not score well on your assessments? I thought you were supposed to be saving these children?
I dare you to produce the number of students who leave your schools every year. I double dare you to produce the level of these students.
I bet the number is at least 5% a year or more. If the Independent could put down its Pom Poms they would ask that question.
posted by: I'd like to know on January 29, 2010 9:39pm
NewHavenTeacher…maybe you can address this…Can you clarify for me what percentages are of each group (ESL and Sp. Ed. )at the public vs charter schools? What about other special need students? I’ve heard conflicting things about inclusiveness. Public schools have to deal with everyone who attends and they can’t be selective, so I’ve wondered how fair it is to compare the success of the two groups.
The other thing I wonder about is what happens to the students who don’t, for whatever reason, do well at the Charter School. Are they not sent back to public schools?
My comment to the above about “same parents, same kids” relates to the above. Of course these kids improve…with smaller classes, longer school days and probably the fact that teachers aren’t spending a good percentage of their day dealing with disruptive kids, anyone would improve.
Maybe the charter schools can offer some lessons on how to improve, but I’d like to know how successful they’d be if they were dealing with the entire general population.
posted by: verify-v1 on January 30, 2010 12:00am
Facile simpletons distinguish between those who make $100k in the public versus the private sector. Isn’t Johnston a private sector quasi-bureaucrat? Are there ANY repercussions for his misdeeds?
A more warranted argument is to distrust anyone who makes almost three times average employee in the city.
posted by: The Fix Is In on January 30, 2010 9:11am
You can check these numbers yourself by going to the State Department of Education Website and looking at the District profiles. It is a little dense and some forms (such as audited budget expenses are hard to find but they are there).
The number of ELL students and SPED students at Charters is very, very small. Supports for these students are paid for and provided by the local district as well so do not feel too bad.
As to your other questions, as I noted above they do come back. Sometimes because they want to, sometimes they are “counseled” to, sometimes they are expelled or held back too many times. The common theme is that the Charter is not the right fit, right or wrong for a decent percentage of the students they take every year who then come back (again I dare them to produce those numbers).
I have spoken with one of the main financial backers of AF. I asked him directly why he feels the need to support a model that needs to market its “success” of a small number to the “failure” of a much larger and more diverse and challenged number. I also asked why he would support a business model that is built on stripping away public money from the vast majority of schools which by his own account need more support. I finally asked him, even assuming these small number of schools are effective for a small number of students, what about the other 90-95%? His response to all questions was “there are winners and losers in life.”
That philosophy may work in the corporate world but it does not work in the world of public education in a state where every child has a Constitutional Right to a Public Education. All kids can learn and the funding formula must start there.
posted by: NewHavenTeacher on January 30, 2010 11:16am
I don’t have the exact numbers for the Special Education population size (I think it’s slightly, but not significantly lower than NHPS, but don’t want to speculate), but I do know that it is increasing exponentially. The ELL population varies greatly from school to school. I also know that the AF schools do not “send students back” to public schools, especially not in cases where the student is struggling academically. In my experience I have seen perhaps 1 student a year return to traditional NH public schools (by their own choice).
posted by: Teacher Gal on January 30, 2010 11:51am
There are some good arguments to be made for both sides. But as a public school teacher, I’m on the side of all the NHPS kids who won’t get into charter schools, don’t have parent advocates or any other advocates, and have to sit in too large classes, many times with highly undisciplined/unmanageable students, who despite high teacher expectations and rules, do not let others learn without constant disruptions.
Yesterday, I attempted to teach a lesson that several students were not necessarily interested in learning. I get that…but it was a mandated lesson that was given to me by our reading dept. to improve reading comprehension on the CMT…i’m sure charter schools also do these lessons to help students improve test taking strategies. Do you know I was monitored by a VP to make sure I was doing this particular lesson? (Good use of her time, wish I got what she got paid to sit and do that.) Several of the kids were not behaving and not on task, talking, interrupting to go to the bathroom, needing a drink, sharpening their pencils, etc. It was a joke. Did anyone get anything out of this lesson, probably 1/2 the class, not enough though. This lesson that should have taken 15 -20 minutes took 45 minutes!
Do I have rules? yes. Do I have high expectations? Yes. Am I burnt out? No, I love my job and my students. Are the classes too large? YES! Do I plan lessons that inquire higher order thinking skills? Yes. Do they apply themselves to those lessons? No. Do my kids where different colored shirts to say who is successful and who is not? NO WAY! Can I call parents and expect a call back? Not always, numbers change frequently and parents don’t always call back. Are my kids significantly below grade level? Yes. Do I differentiate? Yes. Do the high number of special needs children get enough help, NO! Do students come in daily with problems from home? Yes. Do we have support for them when they do? Not, enough. Are my students adequately fed and cared for? No, not by my standards…...........These are my students and I want the best for them.
The majority of teachers DO care and please don’t lump all teachers into the same basket of bad teachers who don’t care….IT JUST IS NOT TRUE. As in any profession, there are those who don’t belong, can’t do the job, and should leave. Maybe we should be looking at the evaluation process and weeding out those teachers early on BUT before that, let’s give them as much support as possible to make them successful.
New Haven, if you’re serious about wanting to reform your schools…........lower class size to 20, provide in-school discipline rooms for students who cannot follow rules on an as needed basis (and why is it that only some schools have in-house discipline programs… money/politics is my guess).
NHPS need to provide for classroom environments where teachers can teach and all students who want to can learn. So very basic and yet never addressed. 26/27 kids in a classroom is just too big. If you changed that one thing, I’m sure we’d see higher test scores as well, if that’s what we’re really so focused on.
Additionally, give the kids, all kids, right up through 8th grade need some time to run, kick a ball, talk with their friends, and engage socially at least one time during each day, outside of lunch time. I wonder if the kids at Amistad get to use that beautiful playground outside of their school. It’s imperative to academic growth…read the research NHPS.
Lastly, thanks to the jerk who corrected me on my use of there. Glad to know that you’re so perfect and never make a mistake. Believe me, I know the difference, but mistakes happen. Hope I didn’t offend to many others of you with my big mistake. where has all the kindness gone?
posted by: I'd like to know on January 31, 2010 5:16pm
Well, once again I see conflicting information…one comment says that maybe 1 student per year comes back and another states that many more come back or are pushed out. I’d like to know the real story. Sounds like we’ll never know.
Teachergal - I am a NHPS parent and I see everything you’ve described and it saddens me. There are some people out here that do appreciate what you are doing and realized the many challenges you face. To sum it up, you have too many kids in the class, many of whom don’t care if they are there or not nevermind care about whether their actions deter from the learning of others.
Parents who send their kids to Charter Schools obviously are involved enough to bother to apply, plus I believe they have to agree to be accountable for student performance at well. Unfortunately for everyone, there are some public school parents who don’t give a damn. What kind of student does that produce?
Public school teachers are expected to be social workers, nursemaids, teachers and police officers for 26 plus kids. Reduce the class size, give teachers more options for discipline problems and more support. Until those measures are implemented, it is entirely unfair to pin student failure entirely on them.
School reform should address improving the public schools, not taking away their money.
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on February 1, 2010 12:16pm
The debate that won’t go away…“are the charters educating the same kids?”
The fact that the NH district is a system of choice, and that each charter school represents only one choice among 50+ in the annual school choice handbook should mean something.
Students leave the district and enter charters. Students leave the charters and enter district schools. But the fact is that FAR greater numbers of parents wish to send their children TO charters then FROM charters.
Yes, closing the achievement gap is about all children. And its also about CHOICE. The patently illogical argument that we need to magically wave a magic educational wand over New haven and create the same educational experience at precisely the same time for all children or we can’t take ANY forward progress is insane. It is also typical idealogy used by the defenders of the status quo.
A few other nuggets:
Class size is less important than instructional quality. Parents, you would rather have your kid in a classroom of 30 with an excellent instructor than a class of 15 with an ineffective one.
Yes, shame on Mcquillan.
Tom, What do you mean by the “same rules”? Do you mean the same anti-child union work rules? Why would ANY charter school adopt those? You must be referring to something else. What is it?
posted by: Threefifths on February 1, 2010 4:55pm
FIX THE SCHOOLS
Did you know that in 1994 that this was try in the Hartford And Hamden school system and it failed in 1996. A company call Edison try it.
Fix—- I believe you know what I mean——-that once the school year starts no new children are allowed in—(transiency)Wish we had that option—not even close—- Once they accept as we do all comers at all times—I will be a fan—Also:
In order to get in their high school—you must have graduated from their 8th grade—-no outsiders(I’ll take that anyday)How fair is that? How legal is that?
Those are the two big ones—-but I thought you already knew—-Tom
posted by: Support Public Schools on February 2, 2010 4:09am
I have to say, there is so much miss-information going on about this issue. The debate between Charters and District schools is improperly framed. There should not be an argument between Charter and District schools. Nor should there be an issue about splitting money.
The truth is this. There are good and bad charters out there. Most charters are bad. A few show promise. None of them serve the same children that district schools do. As mentioned by others, they do not serve the severe special ed. students, nor can they without district support. They do not serve English Language Learners which if you live in or frequent any major city in CT you will know that a significant portion of the population are ELL.
Charters have nothing without their “host districts.” Not buildings, not supplies, not transportation, not breakfast, not lunch, not anything. The host districts, not the state, front the bill for all that. On top of that Charters got significant start up funds, and rereceivever 9,000 per student. Charters also raise private funding and apply for grants that districts are less likely to acquire.
Districts get just over 10,000 per student and have to maintain a much larger and critical network of schools and must educate and produce result in conditions that you could not imagine unless you are an educator yourself. District have to educate in horrific circumstances most of the time. DeDilapidateduildings, rat traps in the hallways and teachers lounges, torn carpets and rugs, broken windows, outdated books with classroom sizes twice that of some charters with children with all kinds of behavioral issues that they can’t send back to another school if they’re not working out with the program. Districts must educate all the unwanted children.
There is no comparison! Charters were not created to be compared to district schools. They are there to support district schools, that’s why they are public schools. They were created in order to try new things in an incubator setting that is ideal for learning to test and share innovation with their host districts. Charters pitted against their own host district schools is insanity! Charters can never take on the full responsibility of the districts. What they can do is help the districts they are beholden to.
The reason why there is so much debate is because Charters are overstepping their purpose. Trying to compete for district resources that are inadequate to start with is also insanity! Some of you mentioned ECS… So you must know that cities like Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport are wards of the state. Those school districts cannot raise enough municipal money to support a school district. Not enough homeownership, too many tax exempt properties, etc, etc. They are subsidized by the state of CT through ECS. Well the state has flat funded ECS while costs are rising in every category. So districts who were hungry are now malnutritous.
What puzzles me is how everyone syas that education is so important and the biggest civil rights issue of our time, and one of the greatest determinating factor of success in life, and participation in our democracy, and a way out of poverty and crime, yet we have this apathy about funding education. People are talking about waste as if these kids don’t deserve all the resources we can muster up, as if all other public and private organizations are super efficient and don’t make risky decisions and loose money, or pay exorbant bonuses and salaries, as if every industry, organization, bank, government and private organization doesn’t waste and abuse money.
We spend billions and billions on national defense all so we can raise un-educated children?? Military spending is through the roof right? It is a government institution, right? Well I wonder if America would accept a military that was as broken as our education system is viewed as for not wanting to spend the dollars. I wonder… if the military academys looked like some of our schools, would there exist the same apathy to take action and get them up to par or feelings of wastefulness when we consider the salaries we have to pay the people who do the work to ensure we have a world class military? I think the answer is obvious.
We would never allow the military to be anything less than world class. Why do we allow our schools to be without the resources they need? Why are charters fighting the districts that host them? Why are they trying to overstep their mission and mislead the public. I’m in education. You can’t fool me. I’ve seen the charter schools, the district schools, the CommPACT schools and All are doing their best to educate children in conditions that shouldn’t exist in this country.
This debate is improperly framed. Charters and district schools should be working together. We should fully fund ECS and charters should be district schools and we won’t have to worry about competing for funds. New Haven is showing how this is possible in the new agreement with the teachers union NHFT and the new local charters that are being created. There are no restrictions that district schools have to have that charters can’t live with accept that we have to educate all of the children, not handfuls in a vaccuum.
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on February 2, 2010 9:07am
Just about every assertion that SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS makes is BS. The purpose, the funding, the children in charters, the relationship between charters and districts, etc. just about every aspect of your comment is completely bogus.
Tom, I was referring to the union rules. You aren’t saying that new charters have to be unionized are you?, or subscribe to the same anti-child, adult-centered work rules? Just so we’re clear…
posted by: Threefifths on February 2, 2010 9:59am
FIX THE SCHOOLS
3/5 - Of course I know Edison. Good folks. Fairly effective at getting better academic outcomes. But they use a flawed model. Why? Because they are FOR-PROFIT.
Yes, that’s right 3/5. Goode ‘ol Charter school loving FIX is against for-profit schools! You can’t call me corporatist now can you??
But you are a support of the corporatist. Like I said what is going to stop more Edison from taking over the public school system.
Support Public Schools on I agree with you. In fact Check out the credo report.
posted by: Support public schools on February 2, 2010 12:38pm
FIX THE SCHOOLS Every assertion I made is factual. Look it up. The legislation that supports charters in CT explicitly defines their role. They are there to support district schools. Folks who want charters to be a place for private investors to play politics will obviously disagree. They would like to see the private sector take over all government function. Those are political veiws. We are all entitled to them. To say something is “bogus” because it goes against ones political views without facts, to me, that is bogus. Whatever that word means.
Hey Fix— Stick to the script——Are we talking about schools or unions? Amistad and the like play by different rules that favor their outcomes—-that is all I am saying—
Unions can be good or bad depending on how they are run, what their goals are and who leads them—-well you know who the NHFT leaders are—-so the children and their families are in good hands—-stay tuned and jump on board this winning ship. Thanks, Tom
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on February 2, 2010 4:49pm
You force me to refute your most egregious factual inaccuracies, while concurring on the truth in some of your statements:
“None of them serve the same children that district schools do” - LAST YEAR AF BRIDGEPORT HAD AN ENTERING CLASS THAT TESTED COLLECTIVELY BELOW THE DISTRICT AVERAGE (WHICH IS HARD TO DO IN BRIDGEPORT.
“As mentioned by others, they do not serve the severe special ed. students, nor can they without district support.” - YOU ARE MOSTLY CORRECT ON THIS POINT.
“They do not serve English Language Learners” SOME CHARTERS HAVE LESS, SOME THE SAME, AND SOME HIGHER THAN AVERAGE. ALL HAVE A SIGNIFICANT POPULATION OF ELL.
Charters have nothing without their “host districts.” Not buildings, not supplies, not transportation, not breakfast, not lunch, not anything. The host districts, not the state, front the bill for all that.” - VERY FEW CHARTERS RECEIVE ANY FACILITIES FROM THEIR HOST DISTRICTS; ALL CHARTERS BUY THEIR OWN SUPPLIES; SOME RELY ON DISTRICT BUSING; SOME, NOT ALL RELY ON LUNCH; THE HOST DISTRICTS PROVIDE NO OUTRIGHT DIRECT FINANCIAL SUPPORT OTHER THAN IN STAMFORD AND HARTFORD.
On top of that Charters got significant start up funds, and receive 9,000 per student. WRONG. CHARTERS RECEIVE RELATIVELY NOMINAL FEDERAL GRANTS FOR START-UP FUNDS. NO MONEY FROM THE DISTRICT. CHARTERS NOW RECEIVE $9300 PER STUDENT FROM THE STATE.
Charters also raise private funding and apply for grants that districts are less likely to acquire. SO WHAT? WHY SHOULD CHARTERS EVEN HAVE TO RAISE A DIME FROM PRIVATE SOURCES WHEN THEY SUCCESSFULLY EDCUCATE PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS WHO WERE FAILED BY THEIR TRADITIONAL DISTRICT?
Districts get just over 10,000 per student - WRONG. THE NEW HAVEN DISTRICT SPENDS UPWARDS OF $16K PER STUDENT NOT INCLUDING FACILITY FUNDING. ALL MONEY IS RECEIVED THROUGH LOCAL OR STATE FUNDING.
Districts have to educate in horrific circumstances most of the time. Dilapidateduildings, rat traps in the hallways and teachers lounges, torn carpets and rugs, broken windows, outdated books with classroom sizes twice that of some charters with children with all kinds of behavioral issues that they can’t send back to another school if they’re not working out with the program. - WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WALKED INTO A NEW HAVEN SCHOOL? OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS THE DISTRICT HAS JUST SPENT NEARLY $2 BILLION ON CREATING VERY BEAUTIFUL BRAND NEW BUILDINGS.
Districts must educate all the unwanted children. TRUE. AND THROUGH THE LOTTERY SYSTEM, CHARTERS MUST EDUCATE ALL CHILDREN UNWANTED BY THE DISTRICT.
There is no comparison! THERE SURE IS. BOTH ARE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION, TEACHING LOW INCOME CHILDREN, ONE SYSTEM IS OVERLY-BUREAUCRATIC, WEIGHTED DOWN BY ANTI-STUDENT WORK RULES, WITH LITTLE FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE OF EITHER THE STUDENT OR THE TEACHER; THE OTHER SYSTEM IS ENTREPRENEURIAL, DYNAMIC, PERFORMANCE DRIVEN; AND CHILD-FOCUSED, WITH A HIGH LEVEL OF ACCOUNTABILITY ON THE ADULTS, A CULTURE OF ACHIEVEMENT. TWO VERY DIFFERENT OPERATING MODELS WITH TWO VASTLY DIFFERENT OUTCOMES.
Charters were not created to be compared to district schools. WHO CARES WHY THEY WERE CREATED? THE FACT IS THAT THEY THEY WORK NOW. ASPIRIN WAS CREATED AS AN ANALGESIC PAIN RELIVER. SHOULD PEOPLE NOT USE IT AS A PREVENTIVE MEASURE AGAINST HEART ATTACK BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T KNOW THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?
They are there to support district schools, that’s why they are public schools. They were created in order to try new things in an incubator setting that is ideal for learning to test and share innovation with their host districts. - THE CHARTERS ARE VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD TO ENGAGING IN REAL WORK WITH THE DISTRICT.
Charters pitted against their own host district schools is insanity! THAT’S RIGHT. OUR MAYOR THANKFULLY UNDERSTANDS THAT.
Charters can never take on the full responsibility of the districts. - I HOPE NOT, BUT THAT DEPENDS ON THE PERFORMANCE OF THE DISTRICT.
What they can do is help the districts they are beholden to. - OK
The reason why there is so much debate is because Charters are overstepping their purpose. Trying to compete for district resources that are inadequate to start with is also insanity! IF YOUR DEFINITION OF “OVERSTEPPING” IS TO DELIVER THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN TO COLLEGE WHEN THEY WOULD NOT HAVE BEFORE, THEN I SAY LETS DO SOME MAJOR OVERSTEPPING.
So you must know that cities like Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport are wards of the state. YES, BASICALLY.
Those school districts cannot raise enough municipal money to support a school district. Not enough homeownership, too many tax exempt properties, etc, etc. They are subsidized by the state of CT through ECS. Well the state has flat funded ECS while costs are rising in every category. So districts who were hungry are now malnutritous. - LOOKS LIKE ITS TIME TO CUT BACK ON EXTRANEOUS COSTS AND EXPENSES, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER PRIVATE BUSINESS. WE CAN GET FAR BETTER RESULTS WITH THE MONEY THAT IS SLOSHING AROUND IN THE SYSTEM TODAY.
What puzzles me is how everyone syas that education is so important and the biggest civil rights issue of our time, and one of the greatest determinating factor of success in life, and participation in our democracy, and a way out of poverty and crime, yet we have this apathy about funding education. NO APATHY. [UBLIC EDUCATION IS THE SINGLE LARGEST EXPENDITURE IN THE CITY AND IN THE STATE. ITS TIME TO GET SOMETHING FOR OUR INVESTMENT.
People are talking about waste as if these kids don’t deserve all the resources we can muster up, as if all other public and private organizations are super efficient and don’t make risky decisions and loose money, or pay exorbant bonuses and salaries, as if every industry, organization, bank, government and private organization doesn’t waste and abuse money. THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR THERE IS COMPETITION FOR CUSTOMERS AND CAPITAL. PRIVATE BUSINESSES SCREW UP, THEY PAY FOR IT. IN PUBLIC EDUCATION THERE ARE NO REAL COMPETITORS. CUSTOMERS (STUDENTS AND PARENTS) ARE TRAPPED. SO ARE TAXPAYERS. WE NEED CHOICE.
Why do we allow our schools to be without the resources they need? SEE ABOVE.
Why are charters fighting the districts that host them? THEY ARE FIGHTING THOSE THAT WOULD STAND IN THE SCHOOL HOUSE DOOR TO PREVENT LOW INCOME CHILDREN FROM RECEIVING A DECENT EDUCATION AND OPPORTUNITY TO RISE ABOVE POVERTY.
Why are they trying to overstep their mission and mislead the public. BOGUS.
Charters and district schools should be working together. YES. I THINK NEW HAVEN IS ON THE BRINK.
We should fully fund ECS and charters should be district schools and we won’t have to worry about competing for funds. CHARTERS SHOULD BE DISTRICT SCHOOLS? YOU MEAN GOVERNED BY THE BOE? THATS THE REAL REASON WHY CHARTERS WERE INVENTED. TO ESCAPE THE DYSFUNTIONAL GOVENRNANCE CREATED BY POLITICS.
New Haven is showing how this is possible in the new agreement with the teachers union NHFT and the new local charters that are being created. - WE’RE HOPING!
posted by: Threefifths on February 2, 2010 5:15pm
FIX THE SCHOOLS
You force me to refute your most egregious factual inaccuracies, while concurring on the truth in some of your statements:
Your quote followed by my response in bold:
“Most charters are bad” BS. SEE HOXBY STUDY
Fact vs. Fiction: An Analysis of Dr. Hoxby’s Misrepresentation of CREDO’s Research October 2009
How Charter Schools Harm Public Education and Kids
Click here for an annotated archive of news articles on charter school problems.
Oakland’s University Preparatory Charter high school looked like an urban miracle. “A success story in progress … University’s approach seems to be working,” enthused San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson in August 2004.
But nearly three years later, a July 2007 Chronicle investigation revealed just why University’s approach seemed to be working. The school was cheating on standardized tests and faking its students’ grades and transcripts. For good measure, it inflated enrollment figures and mismanaged its finances. And its rogue principal was accused of humiliating and abusing teachers and students.
The oversight mechanism that supposedly keeps an eye on charter schools failed to notice the problems with Uprep, as it was known. Only when distressed teacher-whistleblowers contacted the press was the massive fraud exposed.
It’s impossible to know how many more Upreps there are in the world of charter schools. It doesn’t take a hardened cynic to wonder if a system of giving public funds to just about anyone who wants to run a school, along with minimal oversight and freedom from burdensome bureaucratic regulations, would invite cheating and looting. And when a charter school can make a show of success, private money from the likes of Gates, Fisher, Walton and Broad comes flowing in on top of the public funds.
Charter schools are unpopular with educators, a fact that charter backers scornfully attribute to “educrats’ ” fear of competition and choice. But experienced educators deserve more credit than that. They have sound reason for viewing charter schools as a destructive weapon wielded by those who want to undermine and privatize public education, and they see that charter schools harm the schools around them.
Charter schools do damage in many ways.
Charter schools undermine a critical job of elected school boards—determining how many schools a district needs to serve its children. Even one excess school drains resources away from students’ and classrooms’ needs. Charter backers exert intense pressure on school boards to open additional schools—and in many cases charters are forced upon an unwilling school district by a county board of education or the state.
The charter movement promotes itself by attacking and disparaging public education, constantly citing charter schools’ supposed superiority to traditional public schools (though academic studies show that charters perform no better than traditional public schools). This erodes support for public schools.
In California, the law guarantees charter schools district-provided sites - even if they displace existing programs. Charter schools’ search for sites is causing increasing disruption, divisiveness and conflict in school districts around the state.
Charter schools tend to be far more segregated than traditional public schools, and some exist to cloister privileged white students away from low-income students of color.
As school districts and elected school boards become more familiar with the drawbacks, they are less and less likely to approve proposed charter schools. Charter organizers can then go up the chain of power and get their charters forced into the unwilling school district. Even charter advocates admit that this creates a hostile working relationship between a district and a school that it oversees against its will. Conflict, tension and divisiveness impair school districts’ ability to function smoothly.
School boards are forced to devote increasing amounts of time and resources to dealing with charters’ demands and the problems they cause, so the needs of the rest of the schools get less attention.
It’s a crushing, complex task for “grassroots” organizers to run an entire school on their own. So chains operate most charter schools. They wind up constituting their own separate school systems, almost entirely unaccountable.
The successful “miracle” charters tend to achieve their gains through two practices that are unsustainable and aren’t real solutions. One is screening out and getting rid of unsuccessful students; the other is making superhuman demands on initially willing teachers and administrators that rapidly burn them out. For obvious reasons, neither of these “solutions” addresses the real challenges facing public education.
A school district’s only means of imposing oversight is the threat of revoking the charter. But when the charter movement deploys its ample resources to fight back, destructive and divisive controversy is inflamed. That harms districts, schools, kids and all of public education. For that reason, it’s very difficult to close even a disastrous charter school that chooses to resist.
It sounds great to blast the “burdensome bureaucratic regulations” from which charter schools are joyously liberated. But actually, most of those “burdensome” regulations are there for a reason - to set educational and teaching standards, to combat patronage and favoritism, to ensure access for disabled students, to keep students safe, to gain fair wages and working conditions for teachers. If needless regulations exist, they should be lifted for all schools, not just charters.
Looting, fraud, misconduct and abuse can happen at schools of all types. But as the Uprep scandal and many others have demonstrated, charters open up a whole new income stream for crooks and thieves, and a new hunting ground for predators and abusers. Charter crooks have stolen millions and millions of dollars form California schoolchildren. See PASA’s archives for examples of charter problems nationwide.
When charter schools were freed from the burdensome regulations constraining public schools, they were supposed to act as founts of innovation, devising creative new solutions to the persistent problems in education, which could then be adopted by the mainstream public schools for the benefit of all students. But more than 15 years after the first state law passed authorizing charter schools, public schools are still waiting for that fount of innovation to start flowing. Even the most passionate charter advocates can’t name any innovative ideas that have originated within the charter school movement. While charter schools have harmed our school, districts and children in numerous ways, the promised benefit has never materialized.
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on February 2, 2010 9:44pm
If they gave out Oscars for your postings, the unattributed story that you post below would win hands down in the category for “Best Fiction”.
Don’t know where you find these nut jobs, but keep ‘em coming! They make for a fascinating digression into fantasy land!
posted by: Support Public Schools on February 3, 2010 12:26am
OK… So I see what this is you want to go “tit-for-tat.” I usually refrain from such debates when they are taken out of context like this but I will make an exception in this case.
Before I begin my rebuttal, let me say that I said from the beginning that Charter and District schools should work together. In tandem if you will. I said that the argument is improperly framed because it is framed as an “us-against-them” argument. That this framework is illogical given that they are both public schools and that charters were creaexaggeratedincubators to test different models and strategy that can be applied on a larger scale in district schools.
Government policy is often informed by tests for best practices in the private sector. Yet government must demonstrate real advantages before changes in policy are made because it is beholden directly to tax payers and not controlled by profit margins.
“Most charters are bad” BS. SEE HOXBY STUDY
#1) Even the “study” you provided by Hoxby is not independant. It is a critique of and earlier study which is much more complete. A study that Hoxby himself does not deny deserves merit. Any study on charters vs. district schools is going to be problematic because at some point you will either have to account for discrepancies by adjusting results or you will be making apples to oranges comparisons. That was part of my point. How do you account for the fact that there are so many variables between charter and district schools. In both studies, the authors attempted to do that. For you to use Hoxby as the authority because in his “opinion” Credo exaggerated does not really demonstrate sound judgement. “Most charters” do not out perform district schools, that is just a fact. Some do, but most do not. So not out-performing district schools is bad right? (when I refer to “district” schools, I mean “traditional public schools” obviously).
LAST YEAR AF BRIDGEPORT HAD AN ENTERING CLASS THAT TESTED COLLECTIVELY BELOW THE DISTRICT AVERAGE (WHICH IS HARD TO DO IN BRIDGEPORT.
#2). The “claim” that Bridgeport students entering AF tested below the district average does not necessarily mean they are servicing the same students. What it does mean, if the test scores are any indication of where the children are academically (which may not be the case) is that they are dealing with a challenging group of students. That is what they are supposed to be doing if they are going to be helping the district. Why else would the district hire them? What would be intersting to see is an “independant” to show how well these students perform after a full school year is completed.
The missing element, however, which was my point, is that they do not service ELL or extreme cases of Special Ed. students. They are neither equipped to, nor could they (having tested these different types of students that the district serves) be able to reflect the margins of improvement they brag about and use to pit themselves against district schools.
SOME CHARTERS HAVE LESS, SOME THE SAME, AND SOME HIGHER THAN AVERAGE. ALL HAVE A SIGNIFICANT POPULATION OF ELL.
#3). Your claim that they do, and that they even represent higher percentages than districts do, and you sir, or madam, are wrong. Since you brought up Achievement First, (which is actually a charter that I find to be doing good things)even they admit (through their leader Dacia Toll, that they do not serve ELL “at all” nor do they serve severe special ed. students “at all.” Not on a smaller %than district schools, not on a higher % than district schools, not a “significant population” as you claim, “not at all.” That’s a fact. I dont know where you are getting your information from.
VERY FEW CHARTERS RECEIVE ANY FACILITIES FROM THEIR HOST DISTRICTS; ALL CHARTERS BUY THEIR OWN SUPPLIES; SOME RELY ON DISTRICT BUSING; SOME, NOT ALL RELY ON LUNCH; THE HOST DISTRICTS PROVIDE NO OUTRIGHT DIRECT FINANCIAL SUPPORT OTHER THAN IN STAMFORD AND HARTFORD.
#4). Since we are on AF, (again, a charter that has shown some promise) they recieved $400,000 (that’s an exact #)of district money to open their school in Hartford, they are housed on district property, and have an agreement with superintendant that pays for all of their expenses, including transportation etc., etc. On top of that, they receive the $9,300 (excuse me for saying $9,000 in my earlier post). I will admit, that they may not “all” get buildings, but they get tremendous support from the districts and are in fact, ” have nothing without their host districts”. The districts want them to succeed. That’s why they hire them in the first place. Your claim that these charters are somehow paying for stuff on their own is erroneous.
SO WHAT? WHY SHOULD CHARTERS EVEN HAVE TO RAISE A DIME FROM PRIVATE SOURCES WHEN THEY SUCCESSFULLY EDCUCATE PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS WHO WERE FAILED BY THEIR TRADITIONAL DISTRICT?
#5). So what? So raising extra money is an advantage. Some of these charters are for profit, don’t forget that. Some are nothing more than REITs Real Estate Investment Trusts who run their business and pay themselves rent. Again, you assert that charters are all doing a good job in educating kids who are failed by district schools, and you are wrong. Dead wrong. Like I said, some charters do well AF among them, they found something that works, now they should share it with the district schools. Or maybe you think they should patten their technique and make it an industry secret…
THE NEW HAVEN DISTRICT SPENDS UPWARDS OF $16K PER STUDENT NOT INCLUDING FACILITY FUNDING. ALL MONEY IS RECEIVED THROUGH LOCAL OR STATE FUNDING.
#6). Ok… you just almost made my point for me in that statement. Accept that I think you are wrong on one part. I believe you are confusing the cost of education per child with the actual funding mechanism. District schools get just over $10,000 per student as I previously stated. The cost may in fact reach $16,000. The difference must then be made up somehow through municiple and or other funding sources. That municipalities get money from the state is true. But the implication that the difference in funding between charters and district schools is $16,000 to $9,300 outside of facility and other resources like food transportation, etc. is false and misleading.
My point was that charters and districts should not be fighting over a pot that is insufficient to begin with. When I compared the military to Education funding I was making that point. Where is the wasteful spending when it costs $16,000 per pupil when the state supplies only a fraction of the total cost? Again, not a sound argument. If we believe education is a national issue, than we need to pay for it, take it seriously and stop the sensless bickering.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WALKED INTO A NEW HAVEN SCHOOL? OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS THE DISTRICT HAS JUST SPENT NEARLY $2 BILLION ON CREATING VERY BEAUTIFUL BRAND NEW BUILDINGS.
#7). I applaud the wonderful development projects going on in New Haven being carried out under the leadership of Mayor Destefano. There are similar investments being made in other areas of the state as well. This fact makes me hopeful and encouraged. Yet there are still many, many, and too many schools that (while other beatiful works of art are being built and restored) are being neglected and left behind. There are still children in these buildings man… and they are not getting the attention they deserve.
I know that things take time, but the context in which I made my point was in comparison with the charter schools. The charter schools are not generally housed in these atmospheres. They are often times the ones in better buildings and have much less children when they are not in the best buildings. That is a good thing, but what about the babies left behind.
Again, I accent the differences to make the point that we need to work together and not against each other. Your kid should not be in one of those beat down buildings with less resources while mine is in a state of the art facility when we both live in the same district and pay our taxes to the same state and municipality. There needs to be more collaboration.
THERE SURE IS. BOTH ARE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION, TEACHING LOW INCOME CHILDREN, ONE SYSTEM IS OVERLY-BUREAUCRATIC, WEIGHTED DOWN BY ANTI-STUDENT WORK RULES, WITH LITTLE FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE OF EITHER THE STUDENT OR THE TEACHER; THE OTHER SYSTEM IS ENTREPRENEURIAL, DYNAMIC, PERFORMANCE DRIVEN; AND CHILD-FOCUSED, WITH A HIGH LEVEL OF ACCOUNTABILITY ON THE ADULTS, A CULTURE OF ACHIEVEMENT. TWO VERY DIFFERENT OPERATING MODELS WITH TWO VASTLY DIFFERENT OUTCOMES.
#8). Ok… Now I take offense to these comments. Who are you? You must have been getting tired of writing by the time you got to this part. Where do I start. 1) The differences far outway the similarities between the two types of schools. 2)If you are daring to suggest that district schools are against student achievement and institute “anti-student workrules” provide some example. Your just making inflamatory remarks with no basis. 3) Your charge that district schools have little focus on teacher or student performance is also baseless. 4) You contradict yourself. If I haven’t illustrated enough variables that make the comparison between the two types of schools an apples to oranges comparison, you just gave more examples of the differences (with your slant no doubt, but more differences).
WHO CARES WHY THEY WERE CREATED? THE FACT IS THAT THEY THEY WORK NOW. ASPIRIN WAS CREATED AS AN ANALGESIC PAIN RELIVER. SHOULD PEOPLE NOT USE IT AS A PREVENTIVE MEASURE AGAINST HEART ATTACK BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T KNOW THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?
#9). Haha, very funny. The miseducation as to why they were created is why the framework for this debate is so scued. Whay they were created was a part of an overall plan. Not short sighted advancements in test scores for a few. You want to take the ball and run with it and don’t understand this is a team sport. You’re at the other end of the field with the ball doing a celebratory dance while everyone else is walking off the field getting ready for the second quarter. You don’t get it. Charters are a player on the field, not the winning team.
You can’t do anything you want in the public sector cause you think it’s a good idea. You must answer to the public. You need to demonstrate it works before you change policy. Once you test out best practices you find a way to institute them so that all benefit from them not just a few. This is precisely why private, and for profit organizations don’t belong in government afairs of this nature. You want to hog the ball for yourself. Government is there to garauntee “all” citizens get their fair shake. Business wants to patten and sell a product.
IF YOUR DEFINITION OF “OVERSTEPPING” IS TO DELIVER THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN TO COLLEGE WHEN THEY WOULD NOT HAVE BEFORE, THEN I SAY LETS DO SOME MAJOR OVERSTEPPING.
#10) My definition of “overstepping” is trying to create an adversarial relationship with the district in an effort to overthrow the government. Especially when you’re misleading the public, withholding information, or making a profit. Somethings are sacred and should be garaunted to all citizens of this great nation. Not just some. A good public education is one. By the way, I’ve yet to see one charter represent anywhere in this country that they’ve delivered thousands of students to college that otherwise would not have gone. How do you even measure that? Yet District schools do it everyday.
LOOKS LIKE ITS TIME TO CUT BACK ON EXTRANEOUS COSTS AND EXPENSES, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER PRIVATE BUSINESS. WE CAN GET FAR BETTER RESULTS WITH THE MONEY THAT IS SLOSHING AROUND IN THE SYSTEM TODAY
#11) Another rediculous comment that lacks a basis. The problem is that there is not enough money my friend, not that there is money “sloshing around.” What are you talking about? Do you know how many people are without jobs right now, how many programs have lost funding and setbacks districts are facing right now. Resources that directly affect students success that have disapeared. What planet are you on? I suspect that you business folks who are not doing do well in the private sector now want to come and drain the public sector. That is the new trend right? You know with the government bailing out failing businesses and all. Back Off!
THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR THERE IS COMPETITION FOR CUSTOMERS AND CAPITAL. PRIVATE BUSINESSES SCREW UP, THEY PAY FOR IT. IN PUBLIC EDUCATION THERE ARE NO REAL COMPETITORS. CUSTOMERS (STUDENTS AND PARENTS) ARE TRAPPED. SO ARE TAXPAYERS. WE NEED CHOICE.
#12) Yeah, right! Lol… Private business srews up, we pay for it… ( can you say government bank bailouts) There is no competition for customers and capital because we serve everyone. It’s a constitutional right to have a descent education, not a priviledge for the chosen few who can afford it. I’m sure once there is no money to be made, private businesses will leave anyway. Yet district schools will still be here trying to figure out best practices for our children in a changing world. I don’t doubt that some charters will cast their lot in with the districts and stay around, most will continue to fram this adversarial debate and lose.
THEY ARE FIGHTING THOSE THAT WOULD STAND IN THE SCHOOL HOUSE DOOR TO PREVENT LOW INCOME CHILDREN FROM RECEIVING A DECENT EDUCATION AND OPPORTUNITY TO RISE ABOVE POVERTY.
#13) Ok… Nice sound bite for your cause, but you know that makes no sense. No one is IN THE SCHOOL HOUSE DOOR TO PREVENT LOW INCOME CHILDREN FROM RECEIVING A DECENT EDUCATION AND OPPORTUNITY TO RISE ABOVE POVERTY. No one that is, accept for charter promoters who want to run with the ball for the particular charter that they aspouse; or Charter promoters that want to risk taking resources away from the majority of students in an effort to grow their own small organizations. You know those charter promoters right?
CHARTERS SHOULD BE DISTRICT SCHOOLS? YOU MEAN GOVERNED BY THE BOE? THATS THE REAL REASON WHY CHARTERS WERE INVENTED. TO ESCAPE THE DYSFUNTIONAL GOVENRNANCE CREATED BY POLITICS.
#14)I love your sound bites, but again, not sound nor grounded in truth. Yes, Charters should be governed by the BOE. The structure of the governance can be tweeked in order to allow for the type of flexibility that district school do not enjoy, similar to how the magnet schools are run, but governed by the BOE nonetheless. New Haven can be on the frontline of some very significant change if it chooses. Steps have already been made in the right direction. But not as long as the district and charter school debate coninues to be framed the way it traditionally been framed. Us against them…
Thank you Support Public Schools and Three-fifths as you are well informed and your comments were appreciated——and actually Fix Your last post gives me hope that you will jump on board at some point soon—Tom
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on February 3, 2010 10:58am
The fact that our large public education system STILL has an agrarian school calendar from two centuries ago, maintains a commitment to a 6 1/2 hour school day, has not embraced using student outcomes to evaluate teacher performance, values tenure and seniority above talent and effectiveness, places barriers up against alternative routes to certification, etc. etc. etc…
Look, these are things that now ALL of us are hoping to change, and this is good news. (It wasn’t like that up until recently). Now the question becomes one of pace, or the velocity of change. I would say that we need to have a sense of urgency around our reform, not patience. We have nothing to lose by taking big bold steps because our students are already dying educationally and otherwise.
And Tom, I’m on board.
But will your union really support turn around schools run by non-unionized organizations?
posted by: Threefifths on February 3, 2010 11:08am
FIX THE SCHOOLS
If they gave out Oscars for your postings, the unattributed story that you post below would win hands down in the category for “Best Fiction”.
Don’t know where you find these nut jobs, but keep ‘em coming! They make for a fascinating digression into fantasy land!
Nut jobs. Have you disprove any thing these nut jobs have wrote. Did you read the credo report. Wake and smell the corporatist mackerel.
Check this out.
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———————————————————————————————————————— Charter schools and the attack on public education
By SARAH KNOPP
In a stock market prospectus uncovered by education author Jonathan Kozol, the Montgomery Securities group explains to Corporate America the lure of privatizing education. Kozol writes: “The education industry,” according to these analysts, “represents, in our opinion, the final frontier of a number of sectors once under public control” that have either voluntarily opened or, they note in pointed terms, have “been forced” to open up to private enterprise. Indeed, they write, “the education industry represents the largest market opportunity” since health-care services were privatized during the 1970’s…. From the point of view of private profit, one of these analysts enthusiastically observes, “The K–12 market is the Big Enchilada.”1 The idea that our education system should serve the needs of the free market and even be run by private interests is not new. “Those parts of education,” wrote the economist Adam Smith in his famous 1776 work, The Wealth of Nations, “for the teaching of which there are not public institutions, are generally the best-taught.”2 More recently, Milton Friedman introduced the idea of market-driven education in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom. With the economic downturn of the early 1970s, Friedman’s ultra-right-wing free-market ideas would become guiding principles for the U.S. government and be forced onto states throughout the world. The push toward privatization and deregulation, two of the key tenets of what is known as neoliberalism, haven’t just privatized formerly public services; they have unabashedly channeled public money into private coffers. “Philanthropreneurs,”3 corporations, and ideologues are currently using charter schools to accomplish these goals in education. Friedman chose as his last battle before dying in 2006 to use his clout to push for the privatization of New Orleans’ public schools.4 He advocated for vouchers—government-funded certificates permitting parents to send their child to the school of their choice—but those who support his ideas have switched tracks slightly, pushing now for charter schools.
A charter school is any school that is funded publicly but governed by institutions outside the public school system. A company, a non-governmental organization, a university, or any group of people who write a charter can become autonomous from a public school board and control the budget, curriculum, and select the group of students in a school. They receive public money, and, in exchange, they set out quantifiable results that they will achieve. One quarter of charter schools are run by for-profit operators (called EMOs, Educational Management Organizations), but most are run by nonprofit entities (usually grouped under CMOs, Charter Management Organizations.)5
Charter schools take many different forms—“independent” charter schools, those that are overseen only by the state board of education, and “dependent” charter schools, those that report directly to the local school board. In both cases there is little oversight. There is also a difference between freestanding, “start-up” charters that are created from scratch, and conversions, where a charter operator takes over all (or part) of a previously existing public school, building and all.
Credit for the concept of charter schools has been given, depending on the source, to Ray Budde, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, and Al Shanker, the conservative leader of the American Federation of Teachers. But the early pioneers of the “small schools” movement, which has been transformed to some extent into the charter movement, were progressives who believed—rightly—that bureaucracy and mandates were harming children. Most of the early small schools were intended to be “laboratories” that could create “best practices” and pressure all public schools to adopt the same. People like Deborah Meier, who helped to create Central Park East Elementary School in Harlem, believed that they could create better schools by winning a degree of autonomy from school districts. And in many cases they did. The impulse today to win autonomy from school-district bureaucracy, mind-numbing standardized curriculum, and stifling and militaristic climates is even stronger, since No Child Left Behind legislation has accelerated these trends.
But many of the original small schools have largely been dismantled. They have collapsed or been taken apart under the pressure of the enormous weight of standardization pushed since No Child Left Behind. Many have also been gobbled up by the corporate sector.
An important book by Michael and Susan Klonsky, early participants in Chicago’s small schools movement, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society, tells an important story. The Klonskys, longtime advocates of small and autonomous schools, chronicle in great detail how the concept of “autonomy”—which the pioneers had hoped would mean democracy—turned into privatization when it crashed into the slick and well-funded strategists of the “Ownership Society.”
The first decentralizing wave of Chicago school reform was decimated by the 1995 mayoral takeover that saw many of the leaders of the small schools movement recruited into the district administration, charter school organization, or the foundations. Others were encouraged to become charter school operators themselves—and did. Surviving small schools were pressured to give up many of their innovations and conform to standardized, and even scripted, modes of instruction and assessment.6 Still, because the noble intentions of some of the pioneers of the charter school movement (to create laboratories that prove what all educators know: that creativity, individual attention, and curricular relevance are the roots of good education) took shape so recently, and because there are some good charter schools, many progressives are disoriented in the current climate. Teachers who support the idea of public education, while recognizing the horrible state of some of our schools, aren’t sure what to do or what position to take when their unions fail to oppose charters, or worse, even endorse them. Some of the best books on the topic, like Keeping the Promise? The Debate Over Charter Schools, published by Rethinking Schools, provide a wealth of crucial information and perspectives for those concerned with education. While it argues that “school reform cannot be isolated from solving society’s larger injustices,” it is ambivalent about the impact of charter schools: “The question facing the charter school movement is whether it will fulfill its founding promise of reform that empowers the powerless, or whether it will become a vehicle to further enrich the powerful and stratify our schools.”7 Founding promises notwithstanding, an honest look at the balance of forces inside the charter movement makes a strong case for the latter. In another example, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society ends up supporting the supposedly pro-union charter school Green Dot. Liberals who support the idea of charter schools give cover to politicians who champion privatization schemes. One of the main platforms for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is support for charter schools. He told Teach for America, “I have been a big fan of public charter schools throughout my career. In the Illinois legislature, I was a leading advocate of public charters and helped pass legislation that authorized Chicago to create 15 new charter schools. I’ve said before that more resources alone will not improve our schools.”8 In a speech to the National Education Association this summer, Obama made two concrete policy suggestions about education—teacher bonuses based on students’ test scores, if the unions approve (merit pay by another name), and an increase in charter schools. Not surprisingly, Republican presidential candidate John McCain agreed totally, adding only that any obstacles to the expansion of charters should be wiped away. The candidates both recognize that charter schools can shift the blame for bad schools onto “bad management,” and can be used to justify the underfunding of public schools. They recognize that the dominant force within the charter school movement is that of corporate and nonprofit entrepreneurs. And so should we.
If we recognize the rapid acceleration of corporate-style charters, and admit that progressive forces are dwarfed by the billions of dollars invested in this movement by the private sector, we should try to group our forces around a completely different movement with a different vision rather than trying to recapture the charter movement (if it were ever ours).
Charter schools are, according to Kozol, a bridge toward vouchers:
In the long run, charter schools are being strategically used to pave the way for vouchers. The voucher advocates, who are very powerful and funded by right-wing foundations and families, recognize that the word “voucher” has been successfully discredited…. They have now shrewdly decided the best way to break down resistance to vouchers is by supporting charters, which represents a halfway step in the same direction. One of the intentions of this, by creating selective institutions, usually with extra forms of funding, is to discredit the entire public enterprise in America. We already have the privatization of the military, as we’ve seen with the private military contractors in Iraq; we’ve seen the privatization of the prison system. Well, the next step is the privatization of public schools. It’s a matter of ideology. In rare occasions, a charter school created by teachers in the public system and in collaboration with activist parents in the community have had at least short-term success…. They tend very quickly—even when they’re started by teachers with the best intentions—to enter into collaboration with the private sector.9 Who’s driving the charter school movement? Today more than one million children attend some four thousand charter schools nationally.10# The Chicago Teachers Union has shrunk by 10 percent since the onset of Renaissance 2010, a program to break away one hundred schools from the Chicago Public School District. In Los Angeles 7 percent of children in public school, 45,000 students, attend charter schools.11 And that number is growing rapidly: in California, charter schools grew by 13.2 percent in 2006/07, increasing to 617 schools.12 Joel Klein, chancellor of schools in the New York public school system, has announced his intention that all of New York’s schools should be charters.13 Thirty percent of the students in Dayton, Ohio, attend charter schools.14 About 30 percent of the children in Washington, D.C., attend these schools, and 9 percent in Arizona. Georgia has sixty charter schools, double what it had in 2005. Florida has 334, and Texas 237.15
The different pace at which states and districts are becoming “charterized” depends on the differing state laws governing charters and the degree of centralization in these areas. For example, charter schools seem to be moving most quickly in areas where control of the school district is centralized in the hands of a mayor or has been put into receivership by the state. The pace is especially quick in areas where local politicians have an explicit pro-charter and free market agenda, in areas where people are more disenfranchised (like in Washington, D.C.) or in areas where a “shock” (to use Naomi Klein’s metaphor) has wiped the slate clean for charter laboratories (like in New Orleans).
In New Orleans, 57 percent of public school students attended charter schools at the end of 2007, and that percentage has probably increased. Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Public School Board ran 123 schools. After the storm, they were taken over by the state of Louisiana and most were turned over to subcontractors. There is now a three-tier school district; select students attend publicly funded charters, others attend state-run schools (the Recovery School District) with a student-to-teacher ratio as high as 40:1 in some schools and no local school board to complain to, and still another group attends the least desirable Orleans Parish schools, where there is a security guard for every thirty-seven students.16
An important article by Bill Quigley describes this system and tells how Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and the U.S. Department of Education had already put $20.9 million in special funds on the table for charter schools by September 30, 2005. (Another $20 million followed.)17 About two months later all 7,500 public school teachers and other school employees in New Orleans were fired and forced to reapply for their jobs, effectively busting the United Teachers of New Orleans. Over a year and a half later, as chronicled in the New Orleans Teachers Union Report No Experience Necessary: How the New Orleans School Takeover Experiment Devalues Experienced Teachers, well over three hundred students were still on wait-lists to gain admission to public schools. The shortages of classroom spaces in the public schools were so bad in 2007 that the NAACP filed suit on behalf of a wait-listed student.18 But the money was readily available, and the red tape not so thick, for privately run charters.
In one heroic case, parents, teachers, and students began squatting in Martin Luther King Jr. School in the Lower 9th Ward, in an attempt to force the reopening of the school. They were offered several million dollars if they would reopen—as a charter.19 In such cases, teachers and parents who decide to form charter schools don’t do so out of hostility to public schools, but out of necessity. In New Orleans in particular, this is a conscious design on the part of the charter movement.
Road to privatization?
This flood tide of charter schools leads some to believe that our school system may soon be wholly broken apart and effectively privatized; but what about the role of public education in supplying a steady stream of workers that have basic proficiencies in math and English necessary in the workplace?
Charter schools fit the needs of the establishment perfectly. Education is still compulsory and paid for by the state. Children are still controlled while their parents are at work, and this is still supported by our regressive tax structure. And charter schools are excellent teachers of free-market, “personal responsibility” ideology. The American Dream is promised to all those who strive to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. If you want your child to get ahead, make sure that he or she is one of the lucky few to get a seat in a charter school. For the rich, charters have added benefits; they are being used to dismantle the power of teachers’ unions, and they are excellent tools for channeling tax money into the pockets of enterprising individuals. This is true even when the charter schools are run by nonprofit companies. And no matter what the rhetoric dished out for public consumption, siphoning public money into private hands is the goal, as the statement by the Montgomery Securities group quoted above shows.
According to U.S. Census data, well over $800 billion is spent on education, public and private, at all levels in the United States each year.20 This makes it roughly the same size as the U.S. trade deficit with China. The private sector wants to get its hands on this money. Along with politicians, it is determined to break the power of the teachers’ unions and to attack one of the last bastions of decently paid American workers. The budget problems resulting from the current recession will provide them cover in doing this.
The Walton Family Foundation of Wal-Mart is the single biggest investor in charter schools in the United States, giving $50 million a year to support them.21 The Waltons specialize in giving money to opponents of public education. “Empowering parents to choose among competing schools,” said John Walton, son of Wal-Mart’s founder, “will catalyze improvement across the entire K–12 education system.”22 According to a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) report, “Some critics argue that it is the beginning of the ‘Wal-Martization’ of education, and a move to for-profit schooling, from which the family could potentially financially benefit. John Walton owned 240,000 shares of Tesseract Group Inc. (formerly known as Education Alternatives Inc.), which is a for-profit company that develops/manages charter and private schools as well as public schools.”23 Wal-Mart is a notorious union-busting firm, famous for keeping its health-care costs down by discouraging unhealthy people from working at its stores, paying extremely low wages with poor benefits, and violating child labor laws. The company has reportedly looted more than $1 billion in economic development subsidies from state and local governments.24 Its so-called philanthropy seems also to be geared to the looting of public treasuries.
As for a coordinated effort, the private incursion into public schools is being pushed by a band of jackals grouped around Bill Gates and the $2 billion that his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have sunk into the education “reform” movement. The foundation funded a 2006 study by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce called Tough Choices or Tough Times, “signed by a bipartisan collection of prominent politicians, businesspeople, and urban school superintendents,” which
called for a series of measures including: (a) replacing public schools with what the report called “contract schools,” which would be charter schools writ large; (b) eliminating nearly all the powers of local school boards—their role would be to write and sign the authorizing agreements for the contract schools; (c) eliminating teacher pensions and slashing health benefits; and (d) forcing all 10th graders to take a high school exit examination based on 12th grade skills, and terminating the education of those who failed (i.e., throwing millions of students out into the streets as they turn 16).25 In the beginning, the Gateses used their dollars and employees to push school districts such as Los Angeles to break up mega-high schools into “small learning communities.” But now they are advising superintendents to give up that project and go straight for independent charters. Gates’ $60 million project, “Ed in ’08: Strong American Schools,”26 will use the elections this year to influence politicians to accept their three mandates: standardization of curriculum nationally, merit pay for teachers, and more time in schools. The campaign’s money comes from Bill Gates and Eli Broad, a Los Angeles real estate magnate. Roy Romer, the former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is its spokesman, and it counts among its supporters a diverse crowd—from Rod Paige, the former secretary of education, who once called teachers’ unions “terrorist organizations,” to Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the corporate-backed National Council of La Raza. It trumpets success stories, like its “Mission Possible: Greensboro, North Carolina,”27 where 383 teachers were paid bonuses in direct relation to their students’ test scores. The movement also has regional boosters. In Los Angeles, Eli Broad, the billionaire who tried to engineer the mayoral takeover of Los Angeles schools, gave Steve Barr and his nonprofit Green Dot $10 million. Last spring Green Dot took over the 2,600-student Locke High School from the Los Angeles Unified School District and has a goal of expanding to forty-one schools throughout Los Angeles.28 Green Dot is supported by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who invited Green Dot executive Marshall Tuck onto his five-person educational advisory board. Villaraigosa is currently pushing for a $7 billion bond measure for the November ballot in Los Angeles, $450 million of which would be earmarked for charter schools if his friend (and former school board member) Caprice Young has her way.29 It’s not surprising that Green Dot’s ties with Democratic Party politicians are so strong, since founder Steve Barr cut his political teeth campaigning for Gary Hart, Bruce Babbitt, and Michael Dukakis.30
Globally, companies are being coached about how to get their hands on state money allocated for public services. An important new book called The Global Assault on Teachers and Their Unions: Stories for Resistance chronicles an international movement to privatize education.31 “Education corporations” are popping up in China on the ashes of public elementary schools. “City Academies” in England are being handed over to private sponsors. Reports shared among these policy-makers offer strategies for how to accomplish this deregulation. One such report is “The Politics of Education Reform: Bolstering the Supply and Demand: Overcoming Institutional Blocks,” published by the World Bank in 1999.32 (The institutional “blocks” are, of course, teachers’ organizations.)
There is no monolithic bloc of evil government and corporate forces marching along a single road map to privatization. Some charter schools were created on the genuine initiative of community members or teachers and parents. In some schools, like ones based specifically on antiracist curriculum, students are undoubtedly learning in a better atmosphere than they were before. But in Los Angeles, for example, while these represent only a handful of the 147 charters, dominated by EMOs and CMOs, they are used to blunt criticism of the dominant, corporate trend in the charter school movement.
There are a few pernicious assumptions shared by almost all charter operators, large and small, for-profit and nonprofit, dependent and independent, start-ups or conversions. The first assumption is that government education budgets will stay the same or continue to decrease. If it is given that public schools will be underfunded, the charter movement touts the belief that schools can succeed by having better management—less bureaucracy and corruption. The second shared assumption is that there is a role for the private sector in decision-making. Those who realize that money does make the difference in schools are attracted by the lucrative “partnership” contracts and money being dangled in front of charter schools by corporate interests. Others simply believe that private forces will be more efficient managers of schools than public school boards. And the corporate interests simply want to get their hands on the money. But all concede a role for private forces in running the schools. A third premise is that teachers’ right to collective representation and bargaining is an institutional “block” to progress, because teachers are in some way to blame for the abysmal state of the schools. We have to push back against these assumptions if we are to win quality education for all.
On what grounds do we object to charter schools?
While nonprofit charter schools are more pervasive than their for-profit counterparts, for the quarter of charters that are for-profit, the obvious problem is that the drive to make a profit will compromise educational quality. And for-profits and non-profits are under similar pressure to expand as quickly as possible.
Edison Schools Incorporated is one of the largest for-profit charter school companies. It ran twenty schools in Philadelphia alone until it was discredited this year. With board members like John Chubb of the Hoover Institution and Brookings Institution, it made a bald-faced attempt to turn millions of dollars in profits by controlling 157 schools. (Not very successfully, though; it was traded on the NASDAQ for four years but only showed one quarter of profitability.33) The most fundamental problem with a private model of education is that a company’s profits depend directly on cost-cutting. The cheaper the services they provide, just as in private prisons and hospitals, the more profit they turn. So there is always an incentive to do things on the cheap—poorly maintained physical plant and equipment, low pay for teachers and other staff, and larger class sizes mean bigger rates of return.
The dynamic works in fundamentally similar ways with nonprofit entities. The pressure to cut costs in order to have money left over for expansion forces nonprofit entities to act in a similar fashion to their for-profit cousins. Every nonprofit charter operator is under immense pressure right now to expand as quickly as possible and to measure success by how quickly they are able to replicate themselves. The newest mandate from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is that we need to close thousands of broken inner-city schools and replace them with charters. There is fierce competition over who will get the contracts, especially among nonprofits. And nonprofits are, of course, allowed to pay their administrators very high salaries as well as keeping a small profit.
And then there is corruption. Celerity, a nonprofit charter school that made an attempt to co-locate on the campus of Wadsworth Elementary in Los Angeles, contracts out all its services to a for-profit firm, Nova, run by the same owner. This backdoor model—of a nonprofit funneling dollars to a separate, for-profit entity—is common. Kent Fischer explained it in the St. Petersburg Times:
The profit motive drives business…. More and more, it’s driving Florida school reform. The vehicle: charter schools. This was not the plan. These schools were to be “incubators of innovation,” free of the rules that govern traditional districts. Local school boards would decide who gets the charters, which spell out how a school will operate and what it will teach. To keep this deal, lawmakers specified that only nonprofit groups would get charters. But six years later, profit has become pivotal…. For-profit corporations create nonprofit foundations to obtain the charters, and then hire themselves to run the schools.34
Whether it’s technically legal, “contracting out” or direct corruption and profiteering, abounds. In their article “The Corporate Surge Against Public Schools,” Steven Miller and Jack Gerson cite many cases of such corruption. Brenda Belton, charter oversight chief for the D.C. Board of Education, admitted to arranging $650,000 in sweetheart contracts for herself and her friends, and C. Steven Cox, CEO of a large chain of charter schools in California, was indicted on 113 felony counts of misappropriating public funds.35
Charters don’t perform better.
As far as teaching American kids high-level skills to get them ready for the job market, data conflict (at best) as to whether charter schools fail more often than public schools do. The New York Times, in an editorial titled “Exploding the Charter School Myth,” uses statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress to argue that fourth-graders in freestanding charter schools showed worse performance than their public school counterparts in math and reading scores. (The data were different, however, for those students in charter schools affiliated with public school districts.) As the editorial argues, “the problem with failing public schools is that they often lack both resources and skilled, experienced teachers. While there are obvious exceptions, some charter schools embark on a path that simply re-creates the failures that they were developed to replace.”36
According to the important book Charter School Dustup: Examining the Evidence on Enrollment and Achievement,37 a study published in 2005 by scholars with the Economic Policy Institute and the Teachers’ College at Columbia University, “an analysis of California found that socioeconomically disadvantaged Asian-origin and Latino students in charter schools had composite test scores (literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies) that were about 4 to 5 percent lower than their counterparts in public primary schools.” Overall, in every state besides Arizona, they found charter schools’ performance is no higher than that of public schools in every demographic category. The comparisons were no better for low-income Black students.
The charter school movement cooks the books to try and prove otherwise. KIPP Schools, a nonprofit company that runs fifty-two schools nationwide and was formed in a partnership between ex–Teach for America (an anti-union organization) teachers and Donald Fisher, cofounder of Gap Inc., illustrates this point. It claims the highest test scores in the Bronx. But one comparison found that 42 percent of entering fourth-graders entering the KIPP school passed state reading tests, as compared to 25 percent for the surrounding public schools. They are starting with a group of students who already have better test scores.
In California, charter schools did worse than regular public schools at achieving their Adequate Yearly Progress goals, even though those goals are flawed because they are set by No Child Left Behind mandates.38 By a slightly better measure, “academic momentum,” which tries to measure improvements in schools, 24.8 percent of charter schools, and only 19.6 percent of public schools earned a “high” ranking. But by the same token, 26.3 percent of charter schools got a “poor” ranking, as compared to only 19.6 percent of public schools. The best charter schools seem to be improving slightly faster than California public schools, but a higher percentage of charter schools perform poorly. Perhaps charter schools aren’t the great equalizers that they claim to be.
When charters do succeed, it’s because they have lots of extra money. All schools should have access to these extra funds—especially the ones that need it most!
This is seen most acutely in New Orleans, where charter schools are in most cases genuinely better than the public schools because they receive a higher rate of funding. The charter schools funded by the Walton family, according to Liza Featherstone of the Nation, receive a higher per-pupil allotment than public schools.39 They are then used as a stick with which to beat public schools as though they were on a level playing field.
Additionally, at Granada Hills High School charter in Los Angeles, the governing board has been able to increase the amount of money flowing into the classrooms by cutting out the larger district bureaucracy to an extent. The fact that schools with more money can do better simply serves to make our point: that more money will make a better school. They all should have it, not a select few. If this means dramatically cutting bureaucracy everywhere, then that’s what we should stand for—not eviscerating public schooling.
The point is that public schools are of poor quality when they are underfunded; the poor quality is then used as an excuse for gutting public education even more. Using classic sharp business practices, the promoters of for-profit schooling are willing to pump some money into the charter schools in order to “prove” they are better, only to cut corners and boost profits once the charters have won the day.
Charters choose their students, which decreases the amount of power and due process that students and parents have. They are more likely to exclude English language learners and special education students. They pursue a different goal than fighting for quality education for all.
At KIPP schools, like many other charters, a condition of admission is that students’ parents have to spend a certain amount of volunteer time at the school. This automatically excludes children whose parents already spend the least time with them (due to working multiple jobs, lack of child care, or any number of difficult issues). While in some cases strictly competitive admissions cannot be used in charters receiving federal funds (although the rules are very flexible, as in New Orleans), these schools can select their students and transfer or expel students with less due process than they are afforded in regular schools. This means, firstly, that charter schools select for students with the most resourceful parents, the children who already have a head start in the race. Miranda Restovic told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that she felt like she was applying to college when she tried to get her three-year-old into a charter school. “Although I am thrilled with the increased public school options, I am skeptical as to the (admissions) processes being friendly to all families,” Restovic said. “It’s really difficult if you don’t have the time to make constant inquiries and don’t have connections at the school to call and prod.”40
A study of California charter schools by USC bears out Restovic’s observation. The parents of students The parents of students in California charter schools are more educated than their public school counterparts. Sixty percent of parents whose children attend charter schools had attended at least some college, as compared to 54 percent of parents of their public school counterparts. Forty percent of children in charter schools in California are on free or reduced lunch, as compared to the 50 percent average in California public schools overall.41
English language learners (ELL) are less likely to go to charter schools; in California, 16 percent of charter school students are ELL, as compared to 25 percent in other public schools.42 Charters, whether consciously or unconsciously, select for those students who are going to boost their test scores the most. Once English language learners get to charter schools, they may not be getting the services that they need: 44.9 percent of charter schools in the USC study ranked poorly for reclassification of students to Fluent English Proficient.43
Secondly, charters’ ability to select students fundamentally changes the dynamics of the relationship between parents and schools. Parents of struggling students, or those who disagree with the charter board, or who don’t fulfill obligations for the school are always under threat of transfer to another school. They don’t have the same potential power and due process that they do in a public school that their child is required to attend by law.
“Autonomy” for whom? Who calls the shots?
Green Dot, the Broad- (and Gates-?) funded nonprofit that runs twelve schools in Los Angeles, takes over schools by promising equality and evoking civil rights language like “grass-roots control.” For teachers, it promises more local control over curriculum. We want to get away, it argues to teachers hungry for such promises, from mandates and scripts. The problem is that this academic freedom is a lie. These schools are measured by the same standardized tests that all schools are, and they are well aware of it. There is no less—and arguably more—pressure for a charter to “teach to the test” since their raison d’être is that they can help students to “perform better.”
Green Dot promises more academic freedom and local control. A couple of paragraphs from Green Dot’s own website, however, illustrate the limitations of these promises.
While the Home Office provides Recommended Practices to schools, principals and teachers have ultimate autonomy to decide whether to follow those Recommended Practices or take different approaches…. Local control works in Green Dot’s school model because schools and all stake-holders within them are held accountable for student results. If students in a particular school or classroom are not performing up to expectations, then teachers and principals are held accountable and local control can be taken away. Green Dot’s accountability system defines quarterly and annual performance targets for each school and teacher as well as the period of time that a school or teacher can under-perform before Green Dot’s Education Team will intervene with supports and/or take away a school’s local control.44 [emphasis added]
In addition, Green Dot can, unlike regular public schools, refuse to admit new students if it is full. In the agreement between Green Dot and the Asocia?cion de Maestros/NEA/AFT, the bargaining represen?tative of the teachers, it is made clear in no uncertain terms that “the Board maintains final authority over decisions regarding adminstrative decisions.” Unlike most charter school companies, Green Dot accepts unions. However, according to a New York Times report, “The union representing Green Dot teachers…has a 33-page contract that offers competitive salaries but no tenure, and it allows class schedule and other instructional flexibility outlawed by the 330-page contract governing most Los Angeles schools.”45
An NPR report describes the tremendous pressure put on teachers in a KIPP school.
Many of the teachers here are young; Feinberg is in her third year. Charter schools have the freedom to hire whom they want, and for this school, being young and enthusiastic counts for a lot. Feinberg knows that she and the school face tremendous pressure to improve the test scores of the city’s most challenging students. “But it’s great pressure, I mean it’s pressure that makes you work harder, that gives you a sense of urgency every day that they must learn these skills,” Feinberg says. “If you don’t produce the results that need to be produced, it’s very possible that you could lose your job.”46 The same report explains that during the nine-hour school days at KIPP academies, students practice “call and response” style learning; in other words, they are taught to “respond in unison” as the teacher snaps her fingers; a traditional rote method not particularly designed to encourage teacher or student creativity. The picture of conformity is reinforced by the fact that most charter school companies require their students to wear uniforms. Schools will be better when teachers are paid more and the profession is more attractive. Teachers’ unions are a fundamental part of winning this; and the charter school movement is an attack on these unions.
It’s clear that the high-powered think tanks and business-driven efforts to promote charter schools are part of a package that includes eliminating teachers’ unions. In New York City, for example, right-wing foundations, with the support of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Department of Education chancellor Joel Klein, are working to keep unions out of the city’s charter schools. In November 2005 the Atlantic Legal Foundation—“a legal arm of the most stridently anti-union corporations and allied far-right interest groups”47—held a seminar in New York City at the prestigious Harvard Club to discuss “union prevention” in the city’s forty-seven charter schools.48 The conference’s opening session was entitled, “Leveling the Playing Field: What New York Charter School Leaders Need to Know About Union Organizing.” Among the scheduled speakers at a main panel were Caryl Cohen, a representative of New York’s Department of Education’s charter school arm, the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence, and Norman Atkins, one of the the founders and leaders of two charter school networks Chancellor Joel Klein has invited to New York. According to Atkins, the consensus of the panel was that “good charter schools organize themselves in ways that keep unions out.”49
“Local control” should include the right to teacher self-representation as well as an independent voice for parents and students. But most charters, even those that wear the progressive mantle, are hostile to this idea. An excellent example is the Los Angeles Leadership Academy run by Roger Lowenstein. It is a “social justice school” that encourages teachers to use lessons from movements for social change, and encourages students to attend antiwar demonstrations. The school recruits teachers who have been involved in community organizing and who are committed to progressive, antiracist pedagogy.
The teachers learned a lesson in social justice, though, when they tried to win the right to representation and collective bargaining by affiliating to the California Teachers Association. Roger Lowenstein hired high-paid anti-union law firms to keep the union out in what one veteran union organizer called “one of the toughest oppositions a teachers’ union has possibly ever faced.”50 Lowenstein argued to the Public Employee Relations Board that it should have no role in overseeing the union election or investigating unfair labor practices because the Leadership Academy is “not a public school.” If he was referring to the decision-making process—rather than the source of funding, which is, of course, public—he is absolutely right. Teachers quickly found out that the school’s advocacy for struggle, protest, and collectively “speaking truth to power” rang hollow when it came to their right to organize themselves.
The main source of poor school quality (and poor performance) is that public schools, at least in poor and working-class communities, are deliberately underfunded and resource starved, precisely in communities where more resources are needed for these schools to succeed; they are then expected to perform according to criteria that their lack of funding makes difficult for them to fulfill. The failure is then used to justify more public school cuts and the diversion of public funds into charter schools.
The next biggest factor in the quality of the school is the quality of teaching. This is directly related to the ability of teachers to shape the curriculum, the amount of collaborative planning time and individual tutoring time that they have, and their rate of pay and experience. All these things increase with the power of teachers’ unions. So if one accepts the idea that unions can play the role of fighting for better quality schools, more democratic accountability of schools, and better compensation for teachers, and that these are essential for good schools, then unions for teachers should be a community demand. This may not happen, however, until teachers’ unions prove through action that they support the needs and struggles of the parents and students in their communities. But teachers cannot have a serious voice in any process of school improvement unless they have the right to collective bargaining.
The slow destruction of union power that occurs when subcontracting creates lots of small workplaces—in place of large, highly unionized ones—has been a fact across many industries. “Whipsawing” is a term used to describe the effect on unions like the UAW when workers in smaller, spun-off shops get inferior contracts, and those contracts are used to pressure workers in bigger plants to accept similar concessions. The same could apply to the effect of charter schools in education.
Some suggest, then, that we have to seek out “pro-union” charter operators and make deals with them. But if we are speaking of privately run CMOs, then genuine power for their teachers would threaten the board’s hegemony in the schools. Some, like Green Dot, are willing to allow teachers a contract, and claim to be pro-union. But in their contract with the AMU/CTA/NEA teachers’ union, one can find few guarantees of any kind of real teacher voice (in the form of voting). According to the contract between Green Dot and the “union,” in effect until 2010,
It is understood and agreed that the Board retains all of its powers and authority to direct, manage and control to the full extent of the charter school law and the regulations of a 501.C3 California corporation. Input from the staff will be considered and decisions will be derived in a collaborative model; final decisions will rest with the Board. Included in, but not limited to, those duties are the right to: ...establish educational policies with regard to admitting students; ...determine the number of personnel and types of personnel needed; ...establish budget procedures and determine budgetary allocations; contract out work and take action on any matter in the event of an emergency.51 The Board will make all staffing decisions. By contrast, the United Teachers of Los Angeles contract with Los Angeles Unified District requires faculty votes on key aspects of running the school, like the schedule and certain discretionary budget items, and guarantees that class assignments will be chosen by the teachers, through seniority, and not arbitrarily by the administration.52 This vision of unionism, typified by SEIU (a representative of which sits on Green Dot’s board) is antithetical to real power or democracy for teachers. A large union cuts a deal with the employer, quickly begins to collect dues from members, and in exchange for “neutrality” on the part of the boss gives away key workplace rights. Green Dot specifically aims to hire younger, more inexperienced teachers and gives incentives for senior teachers to leave. Many suspect Green Dot of signing somewhat toothless union contracts as a way of keeping more combative unions out. This wouldn’t be surprising given the presence of SEIU on their board of directors. SEIU is currently engaged in undermining the legitimate teachers’ union of Puerto Rico (the FMPR) in the wake of the strike that the FMPR led last spring. After the strike, the Puerto Rican government decertified the FMPR. SEIU helped the Asociacion de Maestros (coincidentally, the same name as the teachers’ union at Green Dot schools) to try to win representation of the Puerto Rican teachers. The FMPR was not allowed to contest them.53
Their strategy and ours
New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein has openly declared his wish to make all New York public schools charter schools. Rather than oppose the idea outright, then-United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten chose to play ball on the chancellor’s field. In addition to inviting Steve Barr of Green Dot to New York to partner with the UFT in opening Green Dot schools, she also conceded that New York teachers would be willing to accept some form of merit pay. Merit pay hooks teacher bonuses (money that otherwise could be spent on salaries) to student test performance.
If this “appeasement” strategy was designed to convince Klein to stop blaming teachers for the problems in New York’s schools, it didn’t work. Shortly thereafter, Klein teamed up with civil rights figure Al Sharpton to launch the Education Equality Project, whose main goal is to remove the “block” that the teachers’ union supposedly creates to “reform.” Sharpton said, “But we cannot say that we’re going to close this achievement gap but protect ineffective teachers or principals or school chiefs or not challenge parents.”54 Perhaps if the teachers in New York had decided to build genuine alliances with New York parents—particularly in communities of color—to fight for access to more resources, against dictatorial mandates, and to define what “quality education” means from the ground up, then Sharpton wouldn’t have gotten any traction for blaming the teachers. A more convincing explanation for failure of Black students is gross underfunding and pervasive segregation.
Weingarten may also justify her actions on the basis that we have to make concessions to some charter schools—and so we may as well pick the “pro-union” ones. But rather than trying to play an appeasement game with charters, we should oppose them. The charter school movement may have to slow down under the weight of their own contradictions—they promise better scores but can’t deliver because their modus operandi rests on stripping teachers of their rights and, in many cases, maximizing profits. But another factor that will determine the pace of privatization is the amount and quality of struggle that we can wage, and the clarity with which we can wage it. And whether, in the process, we can begin to cooperate as parents, teachers, and students to formulate those demands that would begin to shape public education to meet the goals and vision that most people have for it.
A few examples illustrate the kind of struggles that might hold out hope for our side. In February 2008, 26,000 Puerto Rican teachers struck for more than a week against the colonial government’s plans for education. The strike had many demands—opposing Law 45 that outlaws public sector strikes on the island, just salaries for teachers, and the right to democratically choose their representation in collective bargaining. Among those demands, though, was one to stop the creep of charters into Puerto Rican education. At the conclusion of the strike, an agreement was signed by teachers’ union president Rafael Feliciano-Hernandez and the minister of education on the island guaranteeing to keep charter schools out. The agreement will be hard to enforce, but it established a precedent of teachers fighting the seemingly inevitable tide of privatization. (It’s also important to note that the Puerto Rican teachers’ resistance to charters began in 1993, which may explain why they’ve staved them off). Yet, as we can see from the above-mentioned joint attack from Puerto Rico’s governor and SEIU, the struggle is far from over.
The other examples are smaller in scope. In 2004, as many of Chicago public schools were threatened with mass closures, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system developed a plan to close Senn High School on the North Side and turn it into a Naval Academy charter school. The ominous move to establish military charter schools—spurred by the military’s shrinking pool of willing volunteers as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind on—is not limited to Senn, nor to Chicago alone, as one 2008 report outlines:
Chicago has the most militarized public school system in the nation, with Cadet Corps for students in middle school, over 10,000 students participating in JROTC programs, over 1,000 students enrolled in one of the five, soon-to-be six autonomous military high schools, and hundreds more attending one of the nine military high schools that are called “schools within a school.” Chicago now has a Marine Military Academy, a Naval Academy, and three army high schools. When an air force high school opens next year, Chicago will be the only city in the nation to have academies representing all branches of the military. And Chicago is not the only city moving in this direction: the public school systems of other urban centers with largely Black and immigrant low-income students, including Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Oakland, are being similarly reformed—and deformed—through partnerships with the Department of Defense.55 According to Jesse Sharkey, a teacher at Senn, In [some] ways, our school is a remarkable community resource, with plenty of morale. Our students come from 70 nationalities, speak 57 different languages and still maintain a sense of unity and mutual respect. Senn students have performed 70,000 hours of community service over the past five years and have been recognized with a national service award. Senn has also developed some of the city’s most successful academic programs for at-risk kids. So instead of waiting for the ax to fall, we began to fight back. We researched the effect that the military takeover would have on our school and community, and wrote fact sheets. We made flyers about our concerns and put up 3,500 of them, with another 500 in Spanish. We reached out and met with community organizations, launched a Web site, wrote press releases and organized to get people out to support us. On October 5, we brought about 700 people out to the CPS forum at our school. The mood in the room was electric. Students had been preparing all week—they had written speeches, drawn dozens of handmade signs and brought along many of their parents. When CPS officials tried to show us a slick promotional video about the Navy ROTC program, the room rebelled. The entire audience stood up and turned its back to the presentation.56 In the end, the Senn students, parents, and teachers won a partial victory. The school stayed open. However, in compliance with a December 2004 decision by the school board, one wing of their building was occupied by the Naval Academy. The charter fixed up their wing of the dilapidated building, including adding new air-conditioning, new computers, and science labs. The academy students, housed in the same building as “regular” Senn students, wear their own uniforms, have their own teachers, and operate by their own rules. The body of Senn was saved through the activism of its community—but one of its limbs has been infected by the viral creep of the charter movement working in conjunction with the military. In a similar vein, teachers and parents in Los Angeles mounted a fight against charter takeover of school space in 2008. In California, Proposition 39 states that charter schools should be given access to space in public education buildings that is not being utilized. This seems like a strange concept in a city where tens of thousands of students go to “year-round” schools due to overcrowding, and trailer-like bungalows have taken over the recreation areas of most schools to create extra space. Nevertheless, forty charters completed applications to co-locate on Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) campuses in the fall of 2008. They had receptive friends on the school board. However, in some notable cases, they were stymied. A group of more than seventy parents as well as teachers from Wadsworth Elementary spoke at and protested an LAUSD board meeting to keep Celerity Charter School off their campus—and won. Similar organizing happened at Logan Elementary, where a proposal to house middle-school children on an elementary school campus was being considered. In fact, according to an estimate by Crenshaw High School UTLA Chapter Chair Alex Caputo-Pearl, parents, students, and teachers at fifteen of the forty schools facing co-location with charters organized against them. At the time of writing, only sixteen of the forty applications for co-location had been accepted by LAUSD. The protests are widely seen as the reason why more charters were not accepted onto LAUSD campuses.
It appears that the charter school movement can be opposed, but it has to be fought school by school. In schools where there are parents, teachers, and students who understand the issues and can oppose charter takeover, charters can be stopped. These small struggles will not, however, stem the national tide until they are strong and viable enough to cohere into a powerful movement for a different vision of public education. The only way to challenge charter schools is to show that they are a stepping stone to privatization, that is, to the denial of publicly funded education as a basic right for all. Also, in their current status, in most instances, charters offer opportunities for private interests to profit by siphoning state funds. We must show that public education suffers not because it is public, but because it is poorly funded by states with other priorities, such as funding corporate handouts.
Here are some ideas for what we can do to begin to win the battle for public education:
1. Fight for resources
We cannot accept the logic that the amount of money available to schools is fixed, even in the current economic meltdown. At the state level, corporate tax rates are criminally low, and at the federal level, a tiny fraction of the money going to the war in Iraq would make giant strides toward fixing our schools. In every case the charter schools that do the best are the ones that receive extra money (usually from private foundations who want to see public schools replaced by charters). There is nothing complicated about the fact that more resources make better schools. If politicians didn’t believe this, they wouldn’t send their students to private schools that spend ten thousand or twenty thousand dollars more per student per year than our public schools do. Granted, only a massive struggle on the scale of the civil rights movement will force them to give us what we want for all children, not just their own. Students should not have to compete to get into the best schools while others are abandoned to horrible conditions in schools festering like wounds in already devastated neighborhoods. All schools need to be made better.
2. Wage an educational campaign against charters.
To date, none of the large teachers’ unions has launched a public relations battle against the charter takeover. Often the objection is that this is too politically difficult, since “the public supports charters.” This is not surprising, though, given that no national force has ever made the case against them. No doubt we’ll lose a battle that we choose not to fight.
3. Welcome charter schoolteachers into our unions but demand that they have all the key provisions of our contracts.
Charter schoolteachers aren’t the enemy. We welcome them into our unions, but must demand that they have all the key contract provisions that larger locals have. We should try to group them into larger bargaining units to avoid the fracturing of our power that happens when we are balkanized. We also can’t allow organizing to try to improve and democratize these charter schools to rob resources from our large public schools. If we wage these fights, charters can’t gain the traction that they need to continue their expansion. Teachers’ unions need to resist the temptation to fall into an organizing model that values representation at whatever cost—a model to which much of the rest of the labor movement has resorted. If we don’t have strong contracts that help to win better conditions for students and teachers and democratize the decision-making process in the schools, unions aren’t worth much.
4. Fight all mandates and corporate incursions into our schools.
Charter schools are just the extreme end of the whole spectrum of the corporate takeover of our schools. Already, schools that are wholly public are being forced into serving the military and business interests of this country. The tendrils of Corporate America reach deep into our schools via nepotistic contracts—from the $3 billion testing industry accelerated under No Child Left Behind, to McGraw-Hill and its Reading First program pushed through by the Bush administration. And as Jonathan Kozol chronicles in Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, teaching children obedience and corporate values (such as kindergartners being asked to role-play workplace managers) is, along with drill-and-kill methodologies, increasingly erasing all the best practices that came out of the educational reforms of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. We need to oppose mandates and all incursions of the private sector into the running of our schools.
New visions for the kind of schools that we want for our children will rise out of the struggles against the attacks that we are facing. This is fundamentally about fighting for democracy in the schools.
At Woodland Hills Academy, the parents and teachers at the school have appealed for (and won) a degree of autonomy from Los Angeles Unified School District, even though the school is not a charter. They have set up a Humanities Academy that makes financial and curricular decisions democratically. The school is known as a college- prep middle school, and has very good performance by all measures. The example of Woodland Hills Academy suggests that the things that are most tempting about some of the better charters—control over what is taught, escape from drill-and-kill mentality, and democratic decision-making—can be achieved inside the public school system as well, by teachers, parents, and students organizing.
In other areas, too, teachers’ unions have partnered with others to try to create innovative schools that attempt to wriggle out from under the grasp of mandates and bureacratic decisions. In Boston, the Pilot School project has done this, and in Los Angeles, Innovation Division schools are experimenting with more collaborative and autonomous decision-making within the schools.57
Teachers who are committed to social justice should put themselves in the camp of those who have fought through direct action for equal access to quality public education. Our role models should reach from the former slaves who forced the Freedmen’s Bureau to create the first public schools in the South and the students who pushed for integration of the public school system during the civil rights movement, to the undocumented students fighting for access to public universities in the United States today.
As long as we have a system built on inequality, the policy makers will attempt to use schools to institutionally and ideologically buttress the division between the haves and have-nots. They will mostly succeed. But in the struggles to come for genuine equality, access to schools to meet the needs of every single child, not a select few among those who live in poverty, will be a call and a slogan of our movements. For the vast majority, this means quality education in public schools. Those who join that fight will determine what the word “quality” means, and will have an opportunity to force these concessions from policy makers until people decide that concessions are not enough.
Sarah Knopp is a teacher in Los Angeles.
Again school reform is nothing more than corporatist profit and if you and any one eles does think so check this out.
Former City Council member Eva Moskowitz makin’ a bundle at nonprofit schools Juan Gonzalez - News
Eva Moskowitz, the former City Council member who founded a small chain of nonprofit charter schools, is a passionate and abrasive champion of the charter school movement.
She’s also making a bundle.
Moskowitz, who makes no secret of her desire to create 40 charter schools across the city and run for mayor some day, raked in $371,000 in salaries in the 2006-2007 school year from organizations connected to her four schools, tax records show.
Those schools, Harlem Success Academy 1, 2, 3 and 4, have an enrollment of about 1,000 pupils, from kindergarten to third grade.
The nonprofit organizations connected to the schools have yet to file more recent tax returns, but Moskowitz said in an interview late Thursday she received $310,000 last year - the 2007-2008 year - $250,000 in salary and $60,000 in a bonus.
That means Moskowitz, who is responsible for four schools, makes more than Chancellor Joel Klein, who gets $250,000 to run 1,400 schools.
In 2006-2007, she even surpassed John Ryan, the former chancellor of the State University of New York, who earned $340,000 to manage some 70 campuses with nearly 300,000 students.
Needless to say, she left your run-of-the-mill public school principal, with an average annual salary of $124,000, in the dust.
Tax records show in her first year of operation Moskowitz made $85,000 as executive director of Harlem Success Academy, the group that receives DOE money to operate the charter schools.
At the same time, she received $186,000 as chief executive officer of the Success Charter Network, a separate nonprofit that provides “management services” to her schools.
Finally, she received $100,000 as an “independent contractor” for Friends of Gotham Charter School, which provides support finances for Harlem Success.
All three organizations share an address and list as officers Joel Greenblatt and John Petry, the millionaire hedge fund managers who bankrolled the Success Charter Network.
Moskowitz said her unusually high pay for 2006-2007, included compensation for months of planning work from the previous year.
“Yes, I earn a good living,” Moskowitz said. “I also have an enormous responsibility to try and design 40 schools that are immensely successful. If your child walks into my school, I treat them like my child.”
Charter schools are free to use the money they raise from outside sources any way they see fit - even if that means huge salaries for the chief executive.
Given that Moskowitz routinely complains that the Department of Education has failed to provide a fair share of funding for her students, it’s fair to ask why she’s paying herself so much for educating so few. Charters get about 90% of what it costs to teach each child and raise funds for additional money.
Parents from Moskowitz’s schools vehemently defend the Harlem Success Academy and say their kids are making phenomenal progress. That could very well be true, but the DOE has not posted independent test results for any of the Moskowitz schools.
Her critics, who include educators, parents, the teachers’ union and Harlem political leaders, say she is a relentless self-promoter.
They say she is not shy about packing public meetings with a parent group sh
posted by: Threefifths on February 3, 2010 3:14pm
I just send the NAACP a copy of this.Hope they can do it here.
February 1, 2010, 5:09 pm Teachers’ Union and N.A.A.C.P. Sue to Stop School Closings By SHARON OTTERMAN The city’s teachers’ union and the N.A.A.C.P. filed a lawsuit on Monday to block the closing of 19 schools for poor performance, charging that the city “studiously ignored” provisions of state law as it moved forward in its process to shutter the schools.
The suit charges that the city did not conduct the required analysis of how the closings would affect the more than 13,000 students who attend the schools, particularly special education and other high-needs populations, and that it failed to analyze how the closings would affect the other, often overcrowded schools nearby.
Instead, the suit charges that the Educational Impact Statements for each closed school, which were mandated by the new mayoral control law passed by the Legislature last year, contained boilerplate language and insufficient detail.
For example, for Paul Robeson High School, a closing Brooklyn school with special programs for young mothers and other at-risk youth, the impact statement summarized the “community ramifications” with this vague paragraph:
“Approximately 1,020 high school seats will be eliminated by the phase-out of Paul Robeson High School. However, the majority of those seats will be recovered with the phase-in of new schools throughout the city and available seats in existing high schools.”
Filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the suit also alleges that the city failed to provide appropriate notice of public hearings and made other procedural errors in the run-up to last Tuesday, when the Panel for Educational Policy, a 13-member board controlled by the mayor, voted to close the schools after a raucous, eight-hour long hearing attended by thousands of protesters.
For weeks, city officials have been promoting the message that the teachers’ union is ginning up much of the opposition to the closings, for political reasons and to save jobs. The union is engaged in protracted contract negotiations with City Hall, and faces 2,500 potential layoffs if it doesn’t agree to cut its members’ raises from 4 percent per year to between 1.4 percent and 2 percent.
In the past few days, however, the mayor’s office has expressed particular displeasure with the joining of the lawsuit by the N.A.A.C.P., the 100-year-old civil rights organization.
“Why the N.A.A.C.P joined a lawsuit to keep persistently failing schools open is mind-boggling and incredible,” Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott said on Monday. As for the procedural violations alleged by the suit, Mr. Walcott said, “We feel we’ve met the letter of the law, but that’s going to be discussed in court.”
Hazel N. Dukes, the N.A.A.C.P. state president, objected Monday to how her organization was being portrayed by City Hall.
“We are not puppets for the U.F.T. or elected officials,” she said at a news conference. “We are here because parents have made complaints about their children not receiving their rights in the school system here.”
Also named as plaintiffs in the suit are: Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president; the Alliance for Quality Education, a non-profit organization; four state legislators; five City Council members; and parents and teachers from the closing schools.
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on February 3, 2010 3:59pm
3/5, Knock yourself out on that one. I trust that the local NAACP understands what the NY chapter doesn’t.
But in general, what have you got against creating economic prosperity through education? (Education = Freedom)
posted by: Threefifths on February 3, 2010 5:53pm
FIX THE SCHOOLS
3/5, Knock yourself out on that one. I trust that the local NAACP understands what the NY chapter doesn’t.
No it is the other way around,That is why I send them a copy of this.
But in general, what have you got against creating economic prosperity through education? (Education = Freedom)
I am not against creating economic prosperity through education.WhatI am against is the exploitation and greed by the corporatist who are using school reform as there hedge fund investments. Fix you talk about school standards and high expectation of teachers and student’s. I agree and this is also of other profession. But asnwer this question for me.How come under school reform education chancellor’s are being replacing with lawyers. That right Arne Duncan Secretary of Education,Joel Klein and Garth Harries all are lawyer’s and were given waiver’s to work in the education system.Can you or I get a waiver to practice law.I don’t think so. So why should they be given a wavier when there are a lot of education chancellor’s out there who can run the education system.That why I am for fixing the system we have now and it will give us economic prosperity through education.But the system you want to bring in only the corporatist will see economic prosperity.
Education = Freedom= To have the freedom to have a elected school board!!!!