Thursday, April 10, 2014

Center on Reinventing Public Education; All Charters, All the Time

It used to be that you could give CPRE a little credit for caring about other education issues than just charters schools.  It would appear that time has passed. 

I'm on their listserv and if you go just by that, it's all charters, all the time.  What is worrying is that if they feel this way about charter schools in other states, I can't wait to see what they think should happen in Washington State.

For example, you may have heard that newly-elected NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio came into office with a willingness to stop giving favors to charters in NYC and quit forced co-locations.  This has turned in to quite the epic battle with one charter operator (and quite a big mover and shaker in NYC), closing her schools and requiring parents and students to march in a rally.  (Try closing a real public school for this kind of thing - not going to happen.)

The issue really was that the former mayor was not charging state-mandated rents to charters and the new mayor was going to charge the charters.

CRPE frames this in a larger way as a "governance" problem.  (They are all about taking governance away from school boards.) 

In most cities, district leaders let existing schools use facilities rent-free, whether those schools are effective or not. District leaders don’t consider whether the facilities housing the least effective schools could be reassigned to more promising school operators. Charters have to find and pay for their own facilities. Even district-employed teachers and principals with ideas for new schools face an uphill fight to get control of a school building. 

District leaders don't "let" existing schools use facilities rent-free; they are operated in the public good with public tax dollars (which, by the way, everyone who works in a school district is paying into).  

The CRPE solution?

Ownership of school buildings could be taken out of districts’ hands. Public school buildings could be owned and maintained by a public real estate trust. The trust could lease space to any publicly funded school at a price that reflects the real costs of occupancy. 

Then you have the director of CPRE, Robin Lake, weighing in on an article on how to regulate global financial institutions.  She compares that advice with running school districts.

In education, this might mean that districts and charter authorizers need to shift away from the trend toward longer and more complex new school applications and reporting requirements and toward smart, highly predictive leading indicators of success. 

I actually have advocated to the Charter Commission for shorter charter school applications but not because charters need less regulation.  And those "predictive leading indicators?"  I want the Charter Commission and the people they hire to read those applications to provide that decision - not use a checklist to do their work.

The job of authorizing is to make smart bets on which charter schools will be successful and to close the schools that don’t deliver, not merely to sponsor school providers with a track record of past success.  

If that were only so but charters that don't deliver are not being closed in nearly the numbers they should be.

The job of regulation is much easier when the entities being regulated, be they banks or schools, do most of the monitoring and risk management themselves.

No thanks.  We've seen how that turns out in the financial services only too well in the last 10 years.

I think CRPE generally has smart people working there - I just wish they would not have such a narrow focus.  Consider this whenever you read something that comes out of that office.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm not against the protest on June 26th at the Gates Foundation, but the real protest needs to be directed at the University of Washington for allowing their own charter school called CRPE in the public university domain.

This is not about reinventing anything. This is about a billionaire's narrow and anti-public schools "vision" being legitimatized and realized in a public university.

Robin Lake really has no legitimacy as a "researcher". CRPE is the Gates version of Fox News at this point, seeking studies and data that support a foregone conclusion. That goes against the mission of most universities, but especially public ones.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

To add to Enough Already and Melissa's point, within the Gates Foundation SPS has been labeled "hopeless" - incapable in its current structure of innovation. It is talked about quite openly.

Gates and its business allies are biding their time, waiting for data that can be manipulated to make their public point about SPS. At that moment, no doubt CRPE as well as its ally at the helm of the UW School of Education (Stritikus and his camp) will be waiting to pounce, making the public argument for massive changes in SPS.

Are massive changes needed in SPS? Clearly. But dissolving a school board and/or pushing charters on the city is not the tactical way forward.

A protest in front of Gates, with coverage by the media, is one weapon among many to be sure those quietly plotting in the background do not get the upper hand in governance of our schools.

DistrictWatcher

Melissa Westbrook said...

DW, yes, let's talk about the planning about what to do with governance (and that means school boards). CPRE doesn't have much faith in them, either.