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

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Massive Charter Giveaways in ESEA Re-Write, Part 2

Let’s begin Part 2 with a quiz. Based on your knowledge of how federal programs work, can you fill in the blank below?
‘‘(b) INFORMATION AND ASSURANCES.—Each application submitted under subsection (a) shall include—
 ‘‘(1) a description of—

‘‘(A) how a grant awarded under this subpart will be used to promote desegregation, including how the proposed ________ school programs will increase interaction among students of different social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds (p. 335)
If “charter” was your answer, you are wrong.  In fact, your answer shows how little you know about charter schools or about the requirements for charter schools by your U. S. Congress and your U. S. Department of Education. 
The answer is “magnet.”  Remember those old school relics intended to combat segregation?  The ones aimed to attract diverse students to a school based on interests in varied foci of curriculum offerings? Music, science, visual arts, history, drama, writing, math, etc.
There are 10 pages in the ESSA monstrosity that deal with magnet schools, and the limitations on them are severe.  For instance, no grant shall go beyond 3 years, and no educational agency may receive more than $4 million in a single year (pp. 340-341).  For 2015, Team Obama requested $91.6 million for magnet schools. 
Contrast that with 52 pages of the ESSA that detail the special advantages that this bill offers for charter schools, whose grants are to be for 5 years, rather than 3.  Consider, too, that just one charter organization, KIPP, received $13,789,074 from a single USDOE grant in 2014. 
For 2015, Team Obama budgeted $248 million for charters, plus another $157 million in September 2015, even though the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools was pushing for $500 million.  That number will be small potatoes if Obama signs this new bill into law.
For the second question on our quiz, let’s look see what the new ESEA says about purposes of a programs.  Please fill in the blank:

The purpose of this subpart is . . .
 ‘‘(1) the elimination, reduction, or prevention of minority group isolation in elementary schools and secondary schools with substantial proportions of minority students, which shall include assisting in the efforts of the United States to achieve voluntary desegregation in public schools;
‘‘(2) the development and implementation of _______ school programs that will assist local educational agencies in achieving systemic reforms and providing all students the opportunity to meet State academic standards;
‘‘(3) the development and design of innovative educational methods and practices that promote diversity and increase choices in public elementary schools and public secondary schools and public educational programs;
‘‘(4) courses of instruction within _______ schools that will substantially strengthen the knowledge of academic subjects and the attainment of tangible and marketable career, technical, and professional skills of students attending such schools;
‘‘(5) improving the ability of local educational agencies, including through professional development, to continue operating _______ schools at a high performance level after Federal funding for the _______ schools is terminated; and

‘‘(6) ensuring that students enrolled in the _______ school programs have equitable access to a quality education that will enable the students to succeed academically and continue with postsecondary education or employment.
If you put “charter” in the blanks, you would be wrong again—although it would be terrific if the billions of governmental and corporate cash going to charter schools were going to fund these purposes, which are instead for the severely underfunded magnet schools.
When we examine the purposes for charter schools, we find no mention of desegregation, diversity, or “minority isolation.”  We know, in fact, that if minority isolation were to be eradicated in charter schools, most of them would be required to become entirely different schools or cease operation.
It is the purpose of this subpart to—
‘‘(1) improve the United States education system and education opportunities for all Americans by supporting innovation in public education in public school settings that prepare students to compete and contribute to the global economy and a stronger America;
‘‘(2) provide financial assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools;
‘‘(3) expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to students across the Nation;
‘‘(4) evaluate the impact of such schools on student achievement, families, and communities, and share best practices between charter schools and other public schools;
‘‘(5) encourage States to provide support to charter schools for facilities financing in an amount more nearly commensurate to the amount the States have typically provided for traditional public schools;
‘‘(6) improve student services to increase opportunities for students with disabilities, English learners, and other traditionally underserved students to 
attend charter schools and meet challenging State academic achievement standards;

‘‘(7) support efforts to strengthen the charter school authorizing process to improve performance management, including transparency, oversight, monitoring, and evaluation of such schools; and
‘‘(8) support quality accountability and transparency in the operational performance of all authorized public chartering agencies, which include State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and other authorizing entities.
We know, too, that the goals of the neglected magnet schools and the celebrated segregated charter schools are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, focusing on preparing students “to compete and contribute to the global economy and a strong America” can only be truly achieved if children learn to learn together and work together, rather than being miseducated in isolated, paternalistic, and well-funded intensely segregated charter schools. 
The glaring racism embedded throughout the new ESEA tells us just how far backward we have come from the 1965 ESEA, which incentivized inclusion and integration, rather than exclusion and apartheid.  Those who ignore these facts by pretending to have achieved some small victory in this shameful legislation become entirely complicit through their silence and inattention. 

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