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

Friday, January 23, 2009

Will Real Oversight and Standards Spoil the Charter School Looting Party?

A entirely phony brand of accountability (NCLB) has brought urban public schools to the brink of collapse, while institutionalizing the entirely unaccountable charter school solution that is supposed to replace those collapsing public schools. Pretty neat trick.

Perhaps some real accountability will be the first step in rebuilding urban public schools. For when real oversight, public governance, and the end of tax giveaways come to corporate charter schools, much of the Business Roundtable's impetus for supporting them will disappear quicker than you can say educational entrepreneur. Then perhaps we can get down the real work of public school renewal, rather than offering up guaranteed tax credits for corporate interests to destroy urban public schools with their parrot learning and detention testing camps manned by unqualifed, temporary script readers working for peanuts.

Do you think the new Administration will notice, or will they barrel ahead with their plan to beef up the charter industry by doubling the federal commitment to them?

From the Star Tribune:
By NORMAN DRAPER, Star Tribune
January 22, 2009

Minnesota appears ready to lay some tough love on one of its most celebrated school choice creations -- charter schools.

Big changes in the way the state's 153 charter schools are monitored and regulated are likely to emerge from this year's legislative session. If so, it would be the first time since 1991, when the state blazed a national trail by passing charter school legislation, that state lawmakers have overhauled the system in such a way.

Minnesota's charters, which serve 30,000 students, will probably face a future of tighter controls, more oversight and increased training for charter school teachers and governing boards. Over the years, charter schools have been battered by problems with poor student performance, fiscal woes, conflicts of interest and charges of inappropriate mixing of public education and private religion. . . .
And here is, yet, another prime example of what is going on all across the country in these unregulated "non-profit" sewage puddles. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Germantown Settlement Charter School, already fighting a district decision to close it, faces an exodus of staff and other problems that threaten its continued operation.

More than 17 teachers and administrators have quit the troubled middle school since September, including the principal, who left 10 days ago. Former staffers say special-education students are not receiving services they need; some eighth-grade classrooms have had no heat.

The school has staved off an eviction order for today at its campus at 5538 Wayne Ave.

The cash-strapped charter scraped up the final installment of $13,538 Friday to satisfy a court judgment of more than $157,000 for past-due rent and fees.

In his resignation letter, principal Jeffrey Williams told the school's board that he was "concerned about the health and safety of the kids." He said he got no response.

Special-education teacher Shober Hairston, who quit last week, said he left because it was impossible to do his job. The school lacked resources and students' records were out of date.

"They're 'playing school' now," Hairston said. "It's sad. The parents don't know."

The school, which enrolls 440 students in grades five though eight, has appealed the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's October decision that it should shut down.

State and federal law enforcement agencies also are investigating allegations that the school diverted some of the $31 million in taxpayer money it received over nine years in order to prop up other nonprofits operated by its parent group, Germantown Settlement, a community-development organization with an array of nonprofit and for-profit subsidiaries. . . .
I think they call that leverage in some business circles, yes?

Last updated: 4:30 pm


  1. Anonymous5:49 PM

    It is my firm belief, that if charter schools across the country were investigated seriously, a scandal, nothing short of a national white-collar crime wave, would be uncovered.

    Lots and lots and lots of taxpayer dollar$ lost.

    Just like in Iraq.


  2. Hey Jim, the last 2/3 of your sentence in the second paragraph is one of the best descriptions of the charter mess I've read in years. Or is it your entire opening paragraph? ...I can't decide.

    Honestly, I think I have a crush on your gray matter. Thanks for thinking, and for writing. I'm sharing your link with other Oakland folks as much as I can.

    You should see the putrid mess they've made here.

    Sharon Higgins

  3. Anonymous12:18 PM

    With all the information out there, how can this attempt to commercially corrupt our system of education continue unabated?

    Here's another horror story you won't believe.


  4. this is a very impressive blog, by the way. I've been doing research on charter schools and have really appreciated your perspective on this issue. also, you are a great writer.