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

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Ravitch and Weingarten Sign on to Charter "Improvement Agenda"

AFT, as the lead corporate union where teachers send their hard earned money to be wasted, is busy preparing for the expected return to Washington of the neoliberal poster couple, Hillary and Bill Clinton.  Part of that massive task is to do whatever is necessary to provide political cover for Hillary's role in another generation of school privatization measures that will pick up where Bubba, Bush II, and Obama left off.  

Surely that is one reason that now that we see a sadly, simple-minded and unenforceable "charter school improvement agenda" that is now in circulation.  As may be expected, both Weingarten and Ravitch embraced the new plan on the same day to make sure that charters may continue expanding unimpeded, and that Hillary can claim support by AFT, NEA, and Diane Ravitch

Below are the specifics of this 11 point "plan," with my some initial remarks to the "plan."

Require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to open board meetings to parents and the public, similar to public school board meetings.
Notice there is no call for charter boards to be elected by the same public that pours hundreds of millions of dollars into these corporate welfare programs.  Does anyone believe that, even if these unelected hedge fund operators and profiteers opened up their meetings, parent could have any effect on shaping policy, rules, or regulations? 

Require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to release to parents and the public how they spend taxpayer money, including their annual budgets and contracts. 
A report to parents, really?  What is to enforce this kind of reporting to parents, and what kind of effect is it supposed to have when there is no public accountability for charter policy, regulations, or expenditures.

Require state officials to conduct regular audits of charter schools’ finances to detect fraud, waste or abuse of public funds.
How about something with more teeth, like regular audits just like the ones public schools undergo?  This would involve critiques of bookkeeping and accounting systems, with suggestions for how to make finances transparent.  Surely, audits won't get in the way of the "bold innovations" that make these charter money sinks so popular among the enemies of public education. 

Before any new charter school is approved, conduct an analysis of the impact the school will have on neighborhood public schools. 

And who is to pay for this analysis and who is to conduct it?  Any charter organization should be required to hire a firm vetted by the state to conduct any analysis.  Otherwise, charter organizations will create their own spin-offs to conduct any analysis that would then be paid for with money intended to go for educational services.

Ensure that neighborhood public schools do not lose funding when new charter schools open in their area. 

This suggestion is just criminally dumb.  The inevitable loss of thousands of dollars per student will have to be absorbed by public school students somewhere, or by other public services that have to be cut to pay for unnecessary corporate welfare reform schools.

Require charter schools to return taxpayer money to the school district for any student that leaves the charter school to return to a neighborhood public school during the school year. 

This should be stated more strongly: Charter school operators will be fined twice the amount of any public funds that are not returned to the local education agency as a result of charter students returning to the public school system during the school year. 

Prohibit charter school board members and their immediate families from financially benefiting from their schools. 

This is, at best, a half-way measure, as it leaves open the possibility of financial benefit to anyone associated with a charter who is not a board member.  Ravitch adds her own stipulation to this to disallow for-profit charters.  That, of course, gives a free pass to all the non-profit corporations that are building empires based in tax-sheltered real estate deals and tax-exempt donations that are then used to decrease tax obligations.  KIPP, alone, receives close to a half-billion dollars each year in funds intended for public schools.  The result is a corporate bureaucracy to match anything the public sector could offer.
Prohibit charter schools from spending taxpayer dollars on advertising or marketing. 
This means nothing without clear definitions.  For instance, would free trips to Vegas or Orlando each year for teachers count as advertising or marketing? How about trips to Disneyland for students?  Or free laptops?  These benefits are offered by KIPP and other charter chains, and public schools cannot dream of doing the same with the money they receive.  

Stop the creation of new charter schools if state officials have not shown the ability to prevent fraud and mismanagement.

These watchdog elements should be created before any state begins to create charters. Missing here, too, are any new requirements to shut down charter operations where mismanagement or fraud have occurred or are occurring.  Most states find it almost impossible to shut down charters once they have been opened. See Ohio as a case study.

Require all teachers who work in taxpayer funded schools, including neighborhood public schools and charter schools, to meet the same training and qualification requirements. 

This simply provides an invitation to state legislatures with "CorpEd reform gone wild" (see TN, NJ, IN, MI, FL, PA, RI, NM, NC, etc.) to make all teacher preparation requirements equivalent to the non-preparation now allowed for charter operators.

Require charter schools to serve high-need students such as special education students, at the same level as neighborhood public schools. 

Requiring charters to accept special education students and ELL students simply means that more of these children will have their needs ignored.  Without public oversight and supervision, the chain gang charters will continue to treat special education and ELL as afterthoughts. 

Conspicuously missing here are any requirements for guidance counselors, librarians, art rooms, hot lunch facilities, humane treatment of students and teachers, transportation, or curriculum.   

Ravitch has added her own sad short list to this inadequate and sad collection of shortsightedness:

Capping the salary of charter school executives to be no higher than that of the local superintendent; 

So based on Ravitch's suggestions, in any community with one or two charter schools, the CEO or CEOs may be paid the same as a public school superintendent who has dozens or hundreds of schools.

prohibiting for-profit management of charter schools; 
See above.

and barring the use of taxpayer funds for political lobbying or campaign contributions. 

Really, Diane?  Charter organizations that accept millions in public money will simply stop using public money and start use corporate cash for campaign contributions and statehouse purchasing.  With millions raised from hedge funds and other money whales, charter chains may, how do you propose to stop the use those funds to further dismantle public education.   

By the way, for someone so committed to public schools and teachers, this toothless wish list above represents the worst kind of intellectual laziness, complacency, or outright corruption.  But, of course, we know that the Ravitch and Cody outfit, NPE, is an off-shoot of NEA and AFT.  In pretending to be independent, NPE can do its own lobbying for candidates that have been approved by the corporate unions. 


  1. Which Side Are You On?

  2. Anonymous5:22 AM

    Charter schools have a detrimental effect on public schools. I will save you the money for that study.

    Abigail Shure

  3. Weingarten knows this thing is a hustle dressed up like a square deal and that's why she supports it. D.R. Wants to believe its a square deal and charters will be brought to accountability and that's why she supports it. Two wrongs don't make a right.