The NCLB rewrite that was passed last week by the House is a corporate states rights version of ESEA that, as Gary Orfield has noted, will set back education policy by more than a half century if it becomes law.
If not halted in the Senate, this corporate welfare bill will send billions in federal grants to segregated “no excuses” charter school companies, venture philanthropists, and real estate developers over the next six years.
With a continuing federal mandate to fix the bottom five percent of schools, the ESEA rewrite will provide at least a billion dollars each year to fund charter school expansion, thus further weakening public education. The new grant programs will be fashioned to provide minimal oversight and maximum autonomy to charter companies and their corporate support organizations, and for the first time, private non-profit corporations will be classified as “state entities,” thus eligible to apply directly for federal grant programs.
The kind of bribery that Race to the Top made infamous will continue in the ESEA rewrite. For instance, federal funding favorability will go to states that do not “impose any limitation on the number or percentage of charter schools that may exist or the number or percentage of students that may attend charter schools in the State” (see below).
Also, grants will be funneled to states that have established infrastructure to help charter companies in facilities acquisition and/or the handing over of public properties at rock bottom prices. Federal help in corporate real estate acquisition signals the full maturation of a charter industry that will be worth hundreds of billions if this law passes:
‘‘(2) PRIORITY.—In awarding grants under this section, the Secretary shall give priority to State entities to the extent that they meet the following criteria:
‘‘(A) The State entity is located in a State—
‘‘(i) that allows at least one entity that is not a local educational agency to be an authorized public chartering agency for developers seeking to open a charter school in the State; or
‘‘(ii) in which local educational agencies are the only authorized public chartering agencies and that has an appeals process for the denial of an application for a charter school;
‘‘(B) The State entity is located in a State that does not impose any limitation on the number or percentage of charter schools that may exist or the number or percentage of students that may attend charter schools in the State.
. . . .
‘‘(I) The State entity is able to demonstrate that its State provides charter schools one or more of the following:
‘‘(i) Funding for facilities.
‘‘(ii) Assistance with the acquisition of facilities.
‘‘(iii) Access to public facilities.
‘‘(iv) The right of first refusal to purchase public school buildings.
‘‘(v) Low or no cost leasing privileges. (pp. 304-307)
. . . .
SEC. 3104. FACILITIES FINANCING ASSISTANCE.
‘‘(a) GRANTS TO ELIGIBLE ENTITIES.— ‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—From the amount reserved under section 3102(b)(1), the Secretary shall not use less than 50 percent to award grants to eligible entities that have the highest-quality applications approved under subsection (d), after considering the diversity of such applications, to demonstrate innovative methods of assisting charter schools to address the cost of acquiring, constructing, and renovating facilities by enhancing the availability of loans or bond financing.
‘‘(2) ELIGIBLE ENTITY DEFINED.—For purposes of this section, the term ‘eligible entity’ means—
A) a public entity, such as a State or
local governmental entity;
‘‘(B) a private nonprofit entity; or
‘‘(C) a consortium of entities described in
subparagraphs (A) and (B). (pp. 309-310)
Other special favors are in store that will be discussed in Part 2, but one of the most striking stipulations in ESSA requires the Secretary of Education to consult with charter companies before modifying or implementing IDEA provisions:
‘‘SEC. 3107. SOLICITATION OF INPUT FROM CHARTER SCHOOL OPERATORS.
‘‘To the extent practicable, the Secretary shall ensure that administrators, teachers, and other individuals directly involved in the operation of charter schools are consulted in the development of any rules or regulations required to implement this subpart, as well as in the devel opment of any rules or regulations relevant to charter schools that are required to implement part A of title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or any other program administered by the Secretary that provides education funds to charter schools or regulates the activities of charter schools. (p. 328)
Finally, it must be noted that, under the new law, if passed, charter schools will no longer just be for K-12. In the future, we should get ready for more pre-K charters and, for the first time, charter colleges and universities.
‘‘(3) CHARTER SCHOOL.—The term ‘charter
school’ means a public school that— . . . .
‘‘(M) may serve prekindergarten or postsecondary students (p. 501).