Monday, June 02, 2014

Charter News from Around the Country

In breaking news from Politics Early and Often (in Illinois), the SEC has charged United Neighborhood Organization and its charter network with defrauding investors to the tune of $37.5M  b "making materially misleading statements" about contracts.  UNO leaders want to settle the case by "promising" to not use nepotism in their contracts and having federal oversight for a year. 

But the SEC says the investigation is continuing. 

The civil allegations from regulators with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission center on contracts the Chicago-based UNO gave to a window company owned by a brother of the group’s then-senior vice president, Miguel d’Escoto.

SEC officials say the charter network should have told investors in a 2011 bond offering that it had hired Reflection Window Co., owned by Rodrigo d’Escoto, and that the contracts worth $11 million were awarded in violation of UNO’s grant agreement with the state.

Interestingly (but not surprisingly), the former president of the charter school organization, was co-chair of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2011 campaign.  

And hey, look what's connected - Teach for America and charter school chains.  This via (another favorite ed site).   The article says that "internal documents reveal charter expansion and TFA go hand in hand."

Emails sent by the Broad Foundation, a leading advocate of market-based education reform and charter expansion, and acquired through a freedom of information request, reveal that many charter management organizations consider TFA presence in a region a necessary prerequisite for opening new schools. According to the documents, charter management organizations including Rocketship, KIPP, Noble, LEARN and Uncommon Schools all indicated that a supply of TFA teachers was a general pre-condition for expanding into a new region.

This would feed into my belief that TFA in Washington state cannot wait for charter schools to open.  It must be of great worry that only one -just one - will open this fall. 

But it’s clear that the Walton Foundation, which has provided start-up funding for one out of four charter schools in the US, sees the expansion of TFA as key to its goal of *infusing competitive pressure into local schools systems.* In Los Angeles, the Walton Foundation, which is led by heirs to the Walmart fortune, has pumped millions of dollars into helping charters and TFA expand simultaneously. Last summer Walton gave TFA $20 million, much of it earmarked for the recruitment of 700 new TFA corps members in LA.

How much of TFA is in LA charters?  94% of their TFA teachers in LA were in charter schools.

On Florida, the League of Women Voters released what Diane Ravitch is calling a "bombshell charter study." 

Twenty percent of the state’s charter schools close because of financial mismanagement or poor academic standards, according to the League of Women Voters of Florida after a year-long study of charter schools in 28 Florida counties.

“Charter schools could fill a niche in Florida’s educational spectrum, but for many, their biggest contribution may be to corporate bottom lines,” said Deirdre Macnab, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. 

With over 576 charter schools in the state, the League of Women Voters of Florida conducted a study in order to better understand the oversight, management, accountability and transparency of charter and private schools in Florida.

 Study findings (most of which are not new to anyone keeping up):
  • many charters "screen" students and drop the less-successful ones
  • many charters are segregated by socio-economic groups
  • some churches are receiving as much as $1M for leasing space to charters
  • lower retention rates for teachers at charter schools
Great common sense finding:

Every student should have access to a free, high quality education regardless of race, family income or geographical location.
Less expensive alternative schools that do not require the same standards for curriculum and instruction should not be allowed. 
Provision must be made for appropriate high quality services to meet the diverse needs of children. 
Accountability requirements should be the same for all schools funded with public money.


seattle citizen said...

Public schools can do wonderful things without being charters. Witness Danville Bate Middle School, in Kentucky, and their success with Performance-based assessment.

An excerpt:
"What makes the Danville experiment particularly noteworthy is that Kentucky was out ahead of the nation on adoption of the Common Core State Standards for English and math. [Principal]Swann believes the standards are worthwhile, but thinks schools can do better than the tests that go with them. Though the new Common Core tests have been touted as improvements over what they replaced, she says they are really 'the same old multiple choice,' and adds, 'I feel like on a standardized test you're really showing what kids don't know.'"

Twelve-year-old student Charlie Hall states it best in the article: "Let's get this straight — who is going to be bubbling in answers at their job? No one"

NPR - Kentucky students succeed without standardized tests

Melissa Westbrook said...

SC, just saw this article this afternoon and had wanted to post it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

This is what we get from an idea that is based 99% on hype and the youthful energy of the best & brightest go-getters. Reality sets in eventually.

The TFA life is unsustainable. Period. Hence, churn-baby-churn.

Experience? Schmexperience! Who needs it?

Waiting for Superman? No. Just waiting for anything sustainable from TFA, or the charters they stock.


mirmac1 said...

Remember that SPS was going to "evaluate" how the TFA experiment did at the end of this school year. I won't hold my breath.