Thursday, November 12, 2015

Charter School Updates - National and State

Where are we with the Washington State charter law?

As usual, waiting on the Supreme Court.  The last action that I see is that four former state attorneys general — Slade Gorton, Ken Eikenberry, Chris Gregoire and Rob McKenna - filed a friend of the court document, asking the Court to reconsider. This was filed right at the end of October which may have been on purpose - the Court does have to read and consider everything filed.

I think the Court will politely tell all these people - thanks for the input but we got it right the first time.  They will say thanks for the input but outcomes from the ruling ("this will hurt other education initiatives the Legislature funds") fall on the Legislature to solve.  But the ruling on charters is separate from those.

I think the one bone the Court will throw out is asking the Legislature to fund the existing charters thru the end of the school year.  Given how late the Court ruled on the challenge and now, the lateness of their reconsideration, it's probably the right thing to do.

I myself just received in the mail today a glossy "How Do You Tell Him?" plea from a group, Act Now for Washington.  It seems to give up on the Court's reconsideration and tries to make the case for the Legislature to act.  They do go for the tone that the Washington Policy Center usually does which is borderline hysteric.

Unless the Legislature acts, six judges will overturn the will of more than one million voters.
 

Yes, and do you know how many voters get their vote overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court?  We have these courts for a reason and that is to guard our state and national constitutions.

They are also STILL whining over whether this will affect funding for other education programs.  Again, two wrongs don't make a right.  Fix those issues but it won't make charter schools constitutional.

The worst part is the back page with quotes from various people and the Times.  Gregoire's is out of context, Ferguson's can't be proven, and the one from a parent lays all the blame on the ruling without any blame that rightly belongs on the shoulders of the Charter Commission and the charter schools themselves.

Sadly, I think that there will have to be a "grand bargain" struck for McCleary in the upcoming legislative session - the Republicans will want a charter bill passed.  Of course, I don't support this (and I hate these blackmail kind of situations) but if they pass a decent charter bill, so be it.

However, if any new bill is as poorly written as the actual initiative, well, good luck with that because they will find themselves right back in court.  The state constitution is very specific on public education in a couple of directions and any bill should reflect that.  As well, if they tried to put om that poisonous form of a parent/teacher petition in the bill, that would also be cause to bring the law back into court.

In charter news around the nation:

- really interesting article from City Paper on charters in Maryland where the push is on to open more of them. But Maryland has a very unique charter law that seems to keep major issues in check:

The heart of the debate centers on competing visions for the future of public education, and whether one believes Maryland has the best charter law in the country or the worst.

A stronger level of oversight, a close relationship with the school district, and unionized charter teachers illustrate the uniqueness of Old Line State charters. The vast majority of schools are considered "mom and pop" charters, meaning parents or former local educators founded them, as opposed to some of the larger national charter management organizations (CMOs) that have developed presences in other cities. According to an Abell Foundation report released this year, many high-performing CMOs have expressed reticence or disinterest in coming to Maryland given the conditions in which they'd have to operate. 
- from Diane Ravitch and Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post - U.S. Department of Education give MORE money to Ohio for charter schools.

As it happens, Ohio has been the site of numerous cases of charter corruption. The press was filled almost daily with the latest charter scandal. 

Wouldn’t you expect someone in the federal government considering giving millions of dollars to Ohio for charter schools to have read the June 2015 coverage in the Akron Beacon Journal which said:
No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.
- from Diane Ravitch, also about Ohio charter schools.  This one bears keeping on your radar because charters want to be "public schools" on the one hand UNTIL they then want to be private.

Taxpayers paid for the furniture, computers and other equipment that students used at 10 Ohio charter schools. But the public doesn’t own the things it paid for, according to the state Supreme Court.


The court ruled in a split decision Tuesday that the assets are instead the property of White Hat Management, the for-profit company that once managed the 10 schools. If the schools want their chairs and desks, they’ll have to buy them back, paying for them a second time with taxpayer dollars.

In the District of Columbia, for example, the attorney general has filed two lawsuits in recent years that allege that D.C. charter school leaders used for-profit companies to divert millions of taxpayer dollars into their own pockets. The D.C. Public Charter School Board, which oversees all city charter schools, has no legal right to examine the books and records of those private companies and says that it has little ability to monitor how those dollars are spent.

 - wondering how many charter schools have closed in the U.S. since 2000 The Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch made a handy interactive list with map:

Today the Center for Media and Democracy is releasing a complete state-by-state list of the failed charter schools since. 2000.  Among other things, this data reveals that millions and millions of federal tax dollars went to "ghost" schools that never even opened to students.
Today, the Center for Media and Democracy is releasing a complete state-by-state list of the failed charter schools since 2000. Among other things, this data reveals that millions and millions of federal tax dollars went to “ghost” schools that never even opened to students. The exact amount is unknown because the U.S. Department of Education is not required to report its failures, where money went to groups to help them start new charters that never even opened. - See more at: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2015/09/12936/cmd-publishes-full-list-2500-closed-charter-schools#sthash.YsbS0L9V.dpuf
Today, the Center for Media and Democracy is releasing a complete state-by-state list of the failed charter schools since 2000. Among other things, this data reveals that millions and millions of federal tax dollars went to “ghost” schools that never even opened to students. The exact amount is unknown because the U.S. Department of Education is not required to report its failures, where money went to groups to help them start new charters that never even opened. - See more at: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2015/09/12936/cmd-publishes-full-list-2500-closed-charter-schools#sthash.YsbS0L9V.dpuf

 - from Diane Ravitch

The test scores for most charter schools, like most public schools, declined sharply on the new Smarter Balanced tests of the Common Core.  Rocketship charters, in particular, did poorly.

- Via the Bringing Up Arizona blog - the mess that is Arizona education where:

Thanks to the series of measures enacted in recent years – open enrollment, charter schools, education vouchers, and student tax credits – students can move about pretty much as they please. These provisions work just as intended, allowing those who are unhappy or wanting something different to seek out a situation that better suits them.

But while backers of choice are quick to tout the benefits, they fail to mention the darker side. In full review, Arizona’s education policy should be known as “choice and consequences.”  The looming two-class education system.

- from the philanthropy blog, HistPhilWhy We Consider Public Schools Public & Charter Schools Private, where they include the Washington State Supreme Court ruling in their story. It's a great article about the history of public education in the U.S.

The recent decision in Washington draws from these 19th-century roots. The disaggregation of public from personal authority combined with Americans’ belief that common schools were necessary to encourage equality and social solidarity to distinguish public schools from private ones. These assumptions animated the education clause of the 1889 constitution, and continue to shape how we think about the relationship between education and philanthropy today.

- From the great EduShyster and the Cashing in on Kids blog, Boston charters wanting to charge for public records on their schools.

Since I posted this story, a new study has officially confirmed what was already evident. Massachusetts has among the worst public records access in the country, earning an F from the Center for Public Integrity. That *F* by the way, stands for *fees,* as in the big fat kind. In fact, since our research group submitted our original public records request, several of the charter schools have increased their fees even higher. Boston Collegiate Charter now wants $9,330 for the information we requested. Excel Academy now wants $16,972.50. Match is up to $37,532. And Neighborhood House is up to $17,645. Which brings today’s big fat tally to $111,039.50—and rising.

Charter school transparency, specifically around access to public records, may be having a national moment. This past summer, Connecticut passed legislation that renders charter management organizations subject to the state’s open records act. State legislators in California introduced multiple charter accountability bills, including one that would make charters subject to open records and meeting laws. The Washington D.C. Auditor called for legislation that would require CMOs to provide more information about their finances in March. Even in Ohio, the “Wild West” of the charter world, legislators have been working on a bill with similar provisions.

-
from Philly.com - Building Boom over Classrooms: Charters Borrow nearly $500 million on Taxpayers dime

12 comments:

Dorthy Gale said...

You have to admit, this blog serves as evidence we need some form of charters in Seattle. There just is no end to the malfeasance being exposed.

Thank you for all your hard work.

LaRumba

Watching said...

I 1240 is unconstitutional. Legislators are looking at this issue. It would take a constitutional amendment to keep I 1240 on the books and it isn't going to happen.

To avoid disruption,present charter schools will stay open until the end of the year.

We'll see funding streams-for other programs- strengthened.

I 1240 comes from an ALEC template. I 1240 is taxation without representation.

The Charter Commission prematurely opened schools and there was no mandate to inform parents that I 1240 was on shaky legal and financial ground.

There is NO reason to put your faith into those that claimed I 1240 was the best charter law in the country.



Patrick said...

Dorothy, this blog is evidence of how it is possible to shine a light on malfeasance in the public sector, as opposed to malfeasance continuing unchecked in the darkness of a private charter operator.

Charlie Mas said...

Some things in Seattle Public Schools are not great, but the solution is to fix them, not to abandon them.

Anonymous said...

"Some things in Seattle Public Schools are not great..."

Charlie wins the award for the Understatement of the Year.

Citizen Kane

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I think that there will have to be a "grand bargain" struck for McCleary in the upcoming legislative session - the Republicans will want a charter bill passed. Of course, I don't support this (and I hate these blackmail kind of situations) but if they pass a decent charter bill, so be it.

MW, so you admitting there could be a DECENT charter bill, interesting.

Charlie, no one is calling for abandoning Seattle public schools and you forget that, any charter school in Seattle is a public school. I think people want school choice options that are decoupled from JSCEE as much as possible. Charters seem to be the quickest way to achieve that.

I personally do not support charter schools, but SPS seems irreparable in its current form.

SPED Parent

voice for children said...

Which charter schools have you visited? Would love to hear what you learned.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SPED Parent, of course there could be a "decent" charter bill. I don't agree with how charters have played out in this country and therefore, do not support them. But there isn't much that can be done if the Legislature managed to write a decent bill that doesn't have constitutional challenges.

But given those who wrote the original one probably had really terrific lawyers writing and vetting it (after they got the template from ALEC), I find it hard to believe someone in the Legislature could do better. They wouldn't want to have to take out/water down what is in there currently.

But sure, there could be decent charter school bill.

I do not think SPS irreparable and I think in the months and years to come, we will see that. (Of course, this means that the legislature and the Mayor would have to keep their hands out of it.)


Voice for Children, I've discussed those schools in previous threads. Look for "charter schools" in the search block.

Anonymous said...

"I do not think SPS irreparable and I think in the months and years to come, we will see that. (Of course, this means that the legislature and the Mayor would have to keep their hands out of it.)"

Months?...really, can you please explain exactly what improvements will happen in months? I guess it's just too bad for those students who age out of SPS before the next few years of improvements happen.

Oh, I guess what your saying is, your hand picked school board is going to fix it?

Let's take a guess,

Pinkham, will bring "REAL" native history to SPS.
Burke, will bring MIF to middle schools and high schools.
Geary, will bring SPS into IDEA, 504 and title IX compliance.
Harris, will bring back Middle collage high school and distribute RHS PTA funds to the south end schools.
Peters, will stand outside of schools screaming on her blow-horn.
Patu, will .....? Never understood a single word she ever said.
Blanford, well he's not really on your team.

Did I miss anything? , oh yes.

"the legislature and the Mayor would have to keep their hands out of it"

What you really mean is, the legislature needs to provide more money for SPS to waste and the Mayor would have to provide all the city services to schools and parents, but keep his hands out of it by never ever asking for any level of accountability.

Did I nail it?

PBT

Melissa Westbrook said...

PBT, I'm not going to detail what will happen because I don't know. What I do know is some candidates ran and won on change.

You may have missed it but my husband died in Feb which is about the time people were deciding to run. I didn't "hand-pick" anyone nor did anyone ask my opinion if they should run. The power some assign to me is fascinating.

PBT, I be honest, I find some of your comments somewhat racist but that's just me. But this constant refrain of Harris being against NE parents and taking money from RHS is not documented. Do not say it again without documentation.

The Legislature needs to do what the Supreme Court told them to do. The Mayor does have an obligation to provide city services to ALL the citizens of Seattle (and that would include schools and parents.)

You may have missed it but the City has a fairly high degree of accountability for F&E levy money.

Anonymous said...

I guess this got lost, so I will ask you again. Can you please explain exactly what improvements will happen in months?

I'm not racist, just tired of white people telling black people what's best for their children. Think about it.

PBT

Anonymous said...

From what I can tell, charter schools that grew out of parents' and teachers' desire for a different type of school are great. Families are happy there. I have friends who were in the Waldorf Charter schools in CA and in AZ, and they loved them. I also have friends who are in SCVi which is an iLEAD school. Those schools were started by a parent. My friends in SCVi are also very happy.

The people who are not happy are the ones who are in charter schools run by companies. The people who started these charters do not have kids in those schools and would never send their own kids to those schools.

HP