"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, February 25, 2008

Charter Schools, Corporate Welfare, and the Shortage of Oversight

Editorial from the Dallas Morning News on needed changes to state charter school laws and the resistance that tax dollars can buy:
If state lawmakers want a textbook case for tougher academic and financial oversight of charter schools, they need look no further than the now-failed Lynacre Academy.

As far back as 2002, the southern Dallas charter school for at-risk children inflated attendance figures to the Texas Education Agency. Under pressure, it repaid the state $200,000.

Three years later, state auditors found more inaccurate attendance records and evidence that the school still owed about $750,000.

For two years, TEA haggled with the school over the money. Lynacre filed bankruptcy in the fall and closed last month, leaving TEA and other creditors seeking payment and students scurrying for a new school at midyear. Lynacre had missed academic targets six consecutive years, one of only two charter campuses in the state with such an abysmal record.

It's a stunning and avoidable failure that must not be allowed to continue. Last session, state Sen. Florence Shapiro sponsored a bill to make it easier for Texas to close low-performing charter schools and send more money to successful charter schools. The measure passed the Senate but never reached the full House, the fifth time in the past four years that a charter reform bill hit a brick wall in the House.

Mrs. Shapiro blamed the bill's demise on "colleagues in the House with ties to low-performing charter schools." A main opponent was Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, whose wife founded and operated a troubled charter school in Stephenville. . . .

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