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

Friday, October 26, 2012


When corporate education antiquarians reformers talk about the virtues of charter schools, high on their list is charter freedom from bureaucratic red tape and regulations that rule the "government" schools.  Without such restrictions, the story goes, charter schools are free to innovate, adapt to changing needs locally, and improve learning.  Sounds great, right?

What this means in reality is that charter school corporations, both nonprofit and forprofit, are unconstrained in opening schools in any discarded shell of a building, without libraries, gyms, art rooms, clinics, or any of the other humanizing elements we associate with public schools in the suburbs.   They are also without restraint in the way they hire and fire teachers without due process, unregulated in the way they deal with parents or keep their books, and most importantly, they are unregulated in the way they run these urban reform schools based on a 19th Century instructional model and an 18th Century behavioral catechism.

 Children with special education plans (IEPs) are left without special education teachers, and children who cannot read are dumped into classes where all children are treated with the same distant disregard that the lockdown behavioral system requires.

I recently visited one of these chain gangs (location anonymous to protect the person who made my visit possible), where I found these same realities.  What impressed me first was the "library," which was comprised of a single deserted cart, and not a book cart, of paperbacks in the most distant corner of the commons area on the first floor.

I saw classes run by TFA teachers who acted more like detached prison guards than teachers.  The closest they came to students was to sign their discipline forms that offenders carried from class to class. Their most obvious concern was a form of behavior that required total compliance, and in one class a sixth grader who could not read looked on as the over-animated TFAer expostulated on the vagaries of correlative conjunctions.  When a child's attention strayed from the "teacher," she responded with a sharp "TRACK ME!  All students snapped to attention in their seats, leaning forward slightly with hands folded, and staring intently at the teacher as she moved across the front of the room.

So while the students in these schools that no middle class parent would allow their children are doing lots of TRACKING, we find now what we knew all along:  no one, from the U. S, Dept. of Ed on down, is tracking the scammers and corporate welfare kings whose school businesses are draining public school coffers while effectively resegregating African-American children in corporate-run reform schools.  (Remember the $212,000,000 hole that will be created in Memphis during the next five years for the massive charter expansion?)

Yesterday a story emerged on a recent federal audit of the U. S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) run by corporate stooge, Jim Shelton.  In recent years the OII, which is directed by Gates and Broad, has gone all in on charters as the best tool for segregated corporatization of urban schools.  Since 2007, OII has handed over $909,000,000 to state education agencies (SEAs) and others (non-SEAs) to open and run charter schools.  And true to the Wall Street philosophy of free and unrestricted greed, the OII has provided no oversight, no regulation, and almost no guidance for the hundreds of millions OII is shoveling to the corporate welfare kings who are operating these urban penal schools. Click chart to enlarge.
Below is the sobering summary of the OIG report findings, which will be presented in more detail in the coming days.  You may download the report here.
We determined that OII did not effectively oversee and monitor the Charter School Program grantees and did not have an adequate process to ensure SEAs conducted effective oversight and monitoring over subgrantees. Specifically, OII did not have an adequate corrective action plan process in place to ensure grantees were correcting deficiencies noted in annual monitoring reports, did not have a risk-based approach for selecting non-SEA grantees for monitoring, and did not adequately review SEA and non-SEA grantees’ fiscal activities. We also found that OII did not provide the SEAs with adequate guidance on the monitoring activities they were to conduct in order to comply with applicable Federal laws and regulations. In addition, OII did not ensure SEAs developed and implemented adequate monitoring procedures for properly handling a charter school closure. Specifically, OII did not ensure SEAs had procedures to properly account for SEA grant funds spent by closed charter schools and disposition of assets purchased with SEA grant funds in accordance with Federal regulations (p. 9).

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