Monday, October 07, 2013

Charter School News

You may recall our discussion about whether charter schools are really public schools?  This particular thread was around rights students/staff may have under the U.S. Constitution and the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that for staff, charters aren't public schools.

Now, there is yet another case - this around the public funding of charters - out of California.  Here's the headline from Ed Week's "Living in Dialogue" - Charter School Defenders Insist They are "Private Entities."

A California couple, Yevgeny "Eugene" Selivanov and Tatyana Berkovich, who were convicted in April of multiple counts of fraud related to their practice of using their charter school bank account for personal expenses and thousands of dollars worth of meals.  

According to the LA School Report,  The couple is appealing their conviction, however, asserting that this amounts to a misunderstanding over the nature of charter school finances. An amicus brief has been filed in the case by the California Charter Schools Association, which urges the appeals court to set aside the conviction on numerous grounds. 

 The table of contents of the Amicus brief enumerates the reasons charter school operators should not be subject to this sort of oversight.

I'm with Anthony Cody (the author):
Charter schools are happy to accept public dollars, but reject the oversight and accountability that comes with operation as a public school. As the California Charter School Association insists, they are private entities. As Diane Ravitch suggests, if they are going to claim that in court, then that is good enough for me. They are private entities. Not public schools. 

This should bolster the argument in the court case against 1240 because these charter schools were advertised as "public schools."  They either are or aren't.

Three more Washington state school districts have announced they will file letters of intent: Highline (that would be Susan Enfield's district, no surprise), Tacoma (something of a surprise given the firmness of their rejection of 1240 but I think they are feeling pressured) and, in Yakima Valley, West Valley School District.   They could not open a charter in their districts until 2015 since they missed the window of time to become an approved charter authorizer for 2014. 

A pretty funny study from the UW's Center on Reinventing Public Education as it ponders why NYC's charters don't serve as many students with special needs. 

So why aren't there more special needs students in NYC charters?  Well, the CRPE says it's choice.  Parents are choosing not to enroll their children in charters so, well, there are fewer Sped students in charters.  Oh.

They go on to say maybe those Sped parents are already satisfied with their current public school OR they may "perceive that certain or all charter schools do not or cannot serve students with IEPs."  

Well, there's a whopper of a statement. 

And those parents with students who are autistic or have a speech/language issue are less likely to apply to a charter for kindergarten.  So why would that be?

I'll take a guess - if the stats are there to show fewer services for Sped students at charters, if the school website says nothing about Sped services and if the school says nothing about services on a tour, I'd guess a parent just might get that message.  CRPE then says:

Surprisingly, the results do not suggest that charter schools are refusing to admit or are pushing out students with special needs.
But then they say the gap of service between a public school and a charter GROWS between K and 3rd grade.  But wait, CRPE then says this:

In fact, more students with previously identified disabilities enter charter schools than exit them as they progress through elementary grade levels.

Baffling but CRPE seems to be willing to tie its rhetoric up in knots to support charters.

I found the study to be quite difficult to take seriously.

Speaking of underserved groups, let's look at charters and ELL programs via this story at Ed Week's Charters&Choice.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office has found that over a third of charter schools in 2010-11 did not report the number of English-language learners in their data collections for the federal government. 

About 37 percent of the data collected from charter schools left the field where the number of ELL students was to be recorded blank, the GAO found. And while a blank field could mean that the charter did not have any ELL students, because of the high number of blank fields, the GAO suspects that it is a result of nonreporting instead.

From Forbes Magazine (and who knows the wealthy better than Forbes?): Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express to Fat City.

They’re also lucrative, attracting players like the specialty real estate investment trust EPR Properties EPR -0.33% (EPR). Charter schools are in the firm’s $3 billion portfolio along with retail space and movie megaplexes.

Charter schools are frequently a way for politicians to reward their cronies. In Ohio, two firms operate 9% of the state’s charter schools and are collecting 38% of the state’s charter school funding increase this year. The operators of both firms donate generously to elected Republicans.

The Arizona Republic found that charters “bought a variety of goods and services from the companies of board members or administrators, including textbooks, air conditioning repairs and transportation services.” Most charters were exempt from a requirement to seek competitive bids on contracts over $5,000.

About the only thing charters do well is limit the influence of teachers’ unions. And fatten their investors’ portfolios.

In part, it’s the tax code that makes charter schools so lucrative: Under the federal “New Markets Tax Credit” program that became law toward the end of the Clinton presidency, firms that invest in charters and other projects located in “underserved” areas can collect a generous tax credit — up to 39% — to offset their costs.

So if you are wealthy you can make money off of charters in a variety of ways, make legislators love you AND feel good about it at the same time.

And why should Justin Timberlake have all the fun?  Apparently the singer Pitbull is "bringing sexy back" to education.  This from NPE News Briefs:

No, I didn’t make up that title.  He really said that.

“Sometimes what happens is that education is no longer sexy,” Pitbull said. “It’s no longer cool. I want to tell them or help put together either curriculum or schools where it does entertain them or engage them. One way or another, I want to just make it fun again to learn.

And again, that's while Pitbull is making money off of public education. 

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pretty much everything out of CRPE is CRAP.

CT

Mark Ahlness said...

For more well researched and documented information on what's happening with charter schools, including the issue of public vs private, read chapter 16 of Diane Ravitch's "Reign of Error". It is a stunning jaw-dropper.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mark, I am long overdue a review on that book but if ANYONE wants to understand - in a clear, concise manner - what ed reform is in this country, Diane's book is it.

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