She interviews one of the authors of a new study published at Social Science Research Network called "Are We Heading Towards a Charter School 'Bubble'?: Lessons from the Subprime Mortgage Crisis.
The authors outline the numbers on charter schools today and then say:
However, charter schools have also been plagued by scandal both in terms of financial management and with respect to student discipline. For instance, two governmental watchdog groups claimed to have uncovered $200 million in charter school fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in 15 states. And a report of the disciplinary practices of Chicago schools revealed that charter schools expelled 61 of every 10,000 students, while district-run schools expelled only 5 out of every 10,000 students.
Mark Naison, a professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University, has claimed that the charter school scandals are beginning to resemble the subprime mortgage crisis.It is compelling reading and EXACTLY what we must avoid in Washington State. Any new charter law (because the old one is dead) MUST be strict, exacting and have a slow opening to charters.
With respect to charter schools, Naison asserted that, similar to the subprime mortgage situation, the federal government encouraged the charter school sector to expand with little oversight. As a consequence, Naison explained that charter schools are experiencing abusive practices at a level resembling the subprime mortgage crisis. These abuses have taken on two forms: (1) mistreatment of students and teachers (e.g. the refusal to educate special needs and English Language learners); and (2) financial issues, such as embezzlement and real estate fraud.
EduShyster interviews Professor Preston Green, the John and Carla Klein Professor of Urban Education at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut.
There’s a great moment in the new movie The Big Short when Selena Gomez turns to the camera and explains to the world what collateralized debt obligations are. Here’s your opportunity to do the same, but for the convoluted world of charter school authorizing.Preston Green:
Promoters of charter school expansion are calling for an increase in independent authorizers, such as nonprofits and universities. Supporters of charter school expansion believe that multiple authorizers will issue more charters, in part, because they are less hostile to charter schools than school districts. However, our research suggests another reason that multiple authorizers result in more charter schools: multiple authorizers are like mortgage originators with no skin in the game. In other words, these authorizers don’t assume the risk of charter school failure. That means that if something happens with the charter school, the authorizers don’t have to clean up the mess.EduShyster:
Your paper raises the spectre that a charter school *bubble* may be forming, particularly in urban areas where these schools are expanding the most rapidly, and often with the least oversight. Can you explain how a charter school bubble would form? And how can I bet against it?Green:
There is an intense push to increase the number of charter schools in Black, urban communities, where they’re very popular because of the dissatisfaction with traditional public schools. Because of this desire for more educational options, these communities are more likely to support policies that could lead to charter school bubbles forming. In fact, I would argue that we are at *Ground Zero* for the formation of such bubbles. Supporters of charter schools are using their popularity in Black, urban communities to push for states to remove their charter cap restrictions and to allow multiple authorizers. At the same time, private investors are lobbying states to change their rules to encourage charter school growth. The result is what we describe as a policy *bubble,* where the combination of multiple authorizers and a lack of oversight can end up creating an abundance of poor performing schools in particular communities.EduShyster:
But it seems important to point out that these bubbles have their origin in worthy policy goals, like increasing home ownership, or sending more kids to college. Who would be against that?Green:
Who would be against that? That’s the power of the choice argument. Folks in poor communities and Black, urban communities obviously want better opportunities for their kids. And I don’t blame them for really pushing for better options. But I do feel that there are people taking advantage of their desire to get better opportunities by pushing forward more options for charters without ensuring that these schools are sufficiently screened. The argument that I hear all the time that drives me crazy is that *obviously this is a good choice. Look at all the parents who are standing in line.* That’s just evidence that people want a better education. That doesn’t mean that they’re actually getting it.EduShyster:
You make a provocative argument that what could ultimately cause the charter bubble to burst in these communities is lawsuits, including those filed by parents against charter schools on civil rights grounds. Explain.Green:
You’re already starting to see that happen. In New Orleans, for example, charters have been sued for failing to provide students with disabilities with an education. This is such a problem that the US Department of Education issued a guidance letter last year reminding charter schools that if they receive federal money, they also have to comply with federal statutes such as Section 504 or Title 6. You may also start seeing state constitutional challenges, like we saw in Washington state.Editor's note: you will frequently hear about the "New Orleans miracle" whereby after Katrina, New Orleans became an all-charter district. That "miracle?" It's falling apart rapidly.