Back to Work - First Up, Charter Legislation

Okay, Happy NewYear and best wishes for everyone's health, safety and happiness


There's work to be done.  First up, charter schools.   I am so unhappy to be having to waste my time on this issue but if not, well then we get to see one more layer of bureaucracy at the state level and more dollars exiting our own district.   (As if we have the money for either thing to happen without a concrete belief that we will get better academic outcomes.) 

Dora Taylor, over at Seattle Education, has written up a very good overview of what is early-state charter law as put forth by LEV.   Read it for your own education on what is being put forth as reasoning for charter law in Washington State. 

(Note:  the LEV summary says "In recent years, the research on charter school effectiveness has grown, enabling us to identify effective providers and practices through data.  The data show that, if properly managed, charters are an effective alternative for students in chronically under-performing schools."  One, don't make the mistake of thinking that says that the effectiveness of charter schools has grown, it's the RESEARCH on it.  One thing isn't the other.  And that second sentence is quite the tall order - finding effective providers, with proper management and using best practices.  Isn't that a definition for ANY good school?)

I may end up on the panel discussion for charter schools that the PTSA is having on January 17th.   My disappointment in the way it is being presented is that it appears to be a debate rather than an informational forum.  The minute you present the issue as pro/con, I think it becomes a debate.   My contention is that most parents/voters do NOT know enough about charters to take a side.  I had made this point several times to Heidi Bennett who is organizing this event when she approached me to be on the panel.  I am very worried that there will be a lot of misinformation/half-truths passed around. 

I am going to get together a weekly datapoint about charters, put it up and post a way for all of you to pass it onto your legislators.  They, too, probably need some education.   As well, we should pass these points onto the Mayor and City Council and hope they won't be coming out for charters schools in Seattle without fully understanding the issue. 

I'm not saying that elected officials are dumb or uneducated but for many of them, they are only as good on an issue as the white paper they are handed. 

This is going to be a tough issue to fight as there are several items favoring passage.  One, the "all the other kids are doing it" syndrome wherein a state not following the rest of the states looks out-of-step.  

Two, "we need it to be in favor with the feds."  No, we need to have a great education system to be in favor with the feds.  If Arne Duncan is going to slight our state over charters, then so be it. 

Three, as usual, there will be many high-powered, big moneyed interests who want this law.  Keep in mind, with charters THERE IS MONEY TO BE MADE.  I don't think that LEV or PTSA or any other educational entity wants charters because of this point but that doesn't matter because there is a whole infrastructure of groups that do.  Charter management organizations (CMOs),  facilities management, TFA, whoever makes money from education, that's who wants in on this law. 

And then there are the big players like the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation. 

I have no doubt that come January 9th when the state legislature comes back into session, that many charter lobbyists will be there.  We can't all be there but we can inundate our legislators with weekly calls and messages.  That is very powerful because they will know you are a Washington State voter.  All the outside lobbyists in the world do not have that powerful influence. 

Also, the more they hear from public school parents the better.  And, if you disagree with the PTSA's stand/advocacy, you will muddy the waters for the PTSA's lobbying efforts because the legislators are going to get mixed messages and have to wonder if PTSA really does represent public school parents. 

I have two more pieces to my charter series - the Landscape Today and my own view (which will likely come as no surprise to anyone but I have tried my best to keep the informational sections neutral).   I will put up a separate area link for the whole series so you can let your friends or parents or neighbors know about charters so they, too, can make an informed choice. 

I will gently point out that it is not the Washington State PTSA putting out this information.  In fact, the charter school white paper at the Washington State PTSA's website has several incorrect and/or misleading statements.  Ditto for LEV.   It is this blog.

If PTSA and LEV and Stand for Children really cared about making sure this issue was clearly laid out for parents and the public, they would have done so.  That they have not means they care more about winning than making sure we pass legislation based on facts. 


Anonymous said…
I was wondering for what population they were targeting charters - the LEV proposal (as posted by Dora) is clearly focused on charters for low-income and minority students.

It is not supporting charters for the home grown alternative type schools of Seattle. It's appears written to exclude these types of schools from charters - Allow only qualified, public benefit non-profit organizations governed by boards of directors, to be eligible to apply to operate public charter schools, meaning CMO's?

A list of Robin Lake's publications has a few articles on CMO's, with Brianna Dusseault listed as co-author.

From one brief:

Yet, despite the amount of investment [$500M invested in CMOs btwn 1999 and 2009] and policy attention, there has been limited research to assess the impact of CMOs and their potential for improving public schools at scale. The National Study of Charter Management Organization Effectiveness was designed to better understand which practices and contextual factors are associated with CMO impacts.

From the "Interim Report Bottom Line," from the "Interim Report Findings, National Evaluation of CMOs," by Lake, Dusseault, et al, June 2010:

Ultimately, the field cannot rely solely on CMOs to dramatically increase the number of quality charters

Further on, it shows CMOs increasingly rely on philanthropy for their budget as the number of schools increases: 10% of CMO's budget for 4-6 schools, and 16% of budget for 11-25 schools.

The greatest barriers to growth include "lack of philanthropic support" (72%), "lack of per-pupil funding/revenue" (72%), and "district or state opposition" (58%), among other reasons.

Also read "The Charter School Catch-22," by P. Hill and R. Lake.

Lots of interesting reading.

-a reader
A Reader, that is an interesting question. This is not a cost-neutral situation so while they can say they are doing it for low-income/minority students and can try to write the law to encourage that, I don't believe the law can limit charters to only those groups.

Also, many non-profits start charters but are run by CMOs. There are a lot of troubling issues with that as you get the for-profit issue, who truly manages the school (including curriculum and program choice), etc. You can write the law to say "only non-profits" but it better say "only non-profits can start and run their schools" or else you bring in CMOs.
dan dempsey said…
Does it seems odd that LEV draws an exactly opposite conclusion from the charter school research than the Governor did?

No not odd .... when pushing an Ed Reform item a lot of dishonesty is normally present and presented by the pushers of Ed Reform.

This is blatant LEV "big money boys" tribalism and nothing more .... as is usually the case with Ed Reform proposals.

Just follow the money ... to find what influences LEV.... it is not the research on Charters.

My favorite Sherry Carr line from "Reform" situations like this is:

Research is mixed and I vote yes.
dan dempsey said…
A thread is needed on "Waiver requests" for Wednesday's Board meeting. Here is the New Policy 2020.
Kathy said…
WSPTSA proposal:
Thank you for that link, Kathy. I should have put it in.

The misinformation/half-truths in it is as follows:

"Choice: parents choose the school their child attends; teachers and principals choose to work at that school."

Many school districts operate on neighborhood plans especially for financial reasons. In SPS, you do have choices. Also, with charters, if a school is oversubscribed, there will be a lottery so your choice would be to join the lottery with no guarantees.

Flexibility - they claim that charters can develop curricula, structure the school day and "hire teachers who meet the needs of their students."

SPS schools do have some degree of flexibility in curricula and are moving ever more in that direction. Ditto on length of school day. On the teacher hiring, I have no idea what that section means.

Accountability - Again, I'll get to this in depth but if people believe charters will be more accountable than traditional schools, you'll need to see the research. The accountability has NOT been there.

The PTSA paper also says that "districts do not have to honor their choice if there is not space at the desired school." That is absolutely true for charters as well. If oversubscribed, it's a lottery.

"Also district do not have to provide transportation to a school that is out of a child's assignment area." Ditto for charters most of whom provide NO transportation.

They also say:
Legislatively, Washington has been supportive of innovation in schools. Allowing public charters would be one way to encourage its practice."

One good way would be to allow the two bills passed last session about innovation in schools to work. OSPI already has been working on supporting those laws. Why pass such laws if you are then going to pass a charter school law?

There are a lot of "could's and "if's" in the PTSA charter white paper.
Anonymous said…
fell out of bed, hit my head.

read this diary and thought - isn't this a great opportunity for the NEA / WEA / SEA, and the colleges and schools of education to get ahead of the lies with effective marketing of sound ideas ?

then I slipped on the wet leaves and hit my head on the concrete and woke up !!

IF the unions and the colleges of ed weren't completely pathetic at the politics of public education, THEN the 6 figure a year LEV SFC DFER ... pooh bahs would be - selling mortgage backed securities?

dan dempsey said…
Dear HitMyHead,

I went to see Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons in "Margin Call".

Perhaps you could rewrite that script and apply it to Education.

"Margin Call" has a lot to do with the selling of crap known to be of little value.
Po3 said…
Don't count the voters out on charters schools. I think people are more informed than you realize.
Po3 said…
Don't count the voters out on charters schools. I think people are more pretty well informed and are pretty anti-charter in this state.
Anonymous said…
Did your school's PTA get this survey? It was linked on the Hanford Secondary PTSA site (Richland, WA),which is listed on the WSPTSA Charter proposal.

As an aside, according to OSPI, the Richland School District is 29% FRL, with a student population that is 80% White, 10% Hispanic, 4.7% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2.6% Black.

According to the WSPTSA 2011 issues guide, in their discussion of charters, "over 90% of KIPP students are African-American or Hispanic/Latino, and more than 80% are eligible for reduced lunch."

-a reader
Anonymous said…
Why are PTSAs from Issaquah and Richland (as listed on the WAPTSA proposal) advocating for KIPP and Green Dot charter school models?

?, next time get a real name or out your comment goes.

Well, now that is quite a good question. Why do well-meaning people in the suburbs want charters for poor and minority students?

On the one hand, they probably do care.

On the other hand, it gets charters' foot in the door and that may be what they really want.

What is quite hilarious is what is going on in New Jersey. They have had charters for quite a while but added just a few a year and of course, mostly in urban areas and not in the wealthier, high-performing areas.

Then they got Governor Christie who put approval at the state level (most charters get approved through a local entity). They added on about 20 new schools which was huge. Now, out in the suburbs, people want different things like foreign language immersion and guess what? The suburbanites are in a twist over it. "Take money out of MY school? No way." Yes way and be careful what you wish for.

I am not a lawyer and I may end up consulting a legislator but I do not believe a charter law can be drawn so narrowly as to leave out local groups who want to participate. What preliminary writings I have seen so far seem to indicate that the pro-charter forces only want KIPP, Green Dot, etc.

What about in-state groups that want to create schools? They would be cut out in favor of out-of-state groups?

The pro-charter folks also want to somehow guide the legislation to provide for schools for low-income, minority kids. That, too, may be dangerous legal ground.

Wouldn't that be some kind of segregation? In reality that's pretty much what is happening and that is why the NAACP is not for charters.

No, this is mostly about getting charters in the state.
Anonymous said…
OSPI stats on Issaquah School District (one of the PTSAs advocating for charters in WA):

9.9% FRL, 65.4% White, 22.3% Asian/Pacific Islander, 6.4% Hispanic, and 2.2% Black. The estimated on-time graduation rate is 95.6%.

Once again, stats for KIPP (from WSPTSA issues guide):

"over 90% of KIPP students are African-American or Hispanic/Latino, and more than 80% are eligible for reduced lunch."

It does make you wonder why a school district with those stats would be using KIPP and the achievement gap as reasons to advocate for charters in WA.

-a reader
Anonymous said…
Charter is a better sell if you focus on "low income, minority kids". Geez, SCPTSA can't even seriously entertain the idea of sharing PTA funds among some needier schools. It is still about votes and passing the legislation. The accountants will tell you for long term sustainability, better to have charters in wealthier suburbs or wealthier parts of Seattle because folks will flock to cheaper alternatives, aka charter schools, than to more expensive private schools.

Really it is not rocket science. Don't you want some "choice" and pay $5,000K for non parochical, quasi-publicly funded school than $25 K a year for a private one? Certainly when SPS was talking about opening up option school in our neck of the woods, some folks were dreaming of a school where parents and teachers would have more say in the running of things and shape the make up of the student body, curriculum, etc, (it was a bit too clubby for my tax money). Of course, it was pipe dream as the disrict has its own agenda and community input was neglegible.

I think there are many who support the idea of charter for various reasons. Whether it is really the best use of public dollars is quite debatable. I agree there are lots of wolves out there in sheep clothing.

Anonymous said…
I should amend one sentence to incude the word DONATE, because technically you can't buy/pay your way into a charter (or can you?):

Don't you want some "choice" and "donate" $5,000K for non parochical, quasi-publicly funded school than paying $25 K a year for a private one?
Sahila said…
free market approach didnt work in Chile, but that doesnt seem to stop US ed deformers Chile Rising: Student Movement Challenges Neoliberal Education
Sahila said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
caroline said…
You may have already posted this quote somewhere on this site.

Diane Ravitch, former advocate of market-based corporate education reform who renounced those ideas when she saw the failing results; and author "The Death and Life of the Great American School System":

"When I was active a decade ago with the Manhattan Institute, which is led by conservative business leaders, it was decided that the best way to market charter schools was to present them as a way to save minority children. This strategy, it was believed, would win liberal support for a very conservative idea. They were right. Liberals could not resist this narrative.

"So today we see Wall Street hedge funders and billionaires saying that they are leading the civil rights movement of our time. I have trouble imagining Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., walking arm in arm with billionaires in a crusade to privatize control of public education."

Read the entire speech by Ravitch that was the source of this quote:
"..because technically you can't buy/pay your way into a charter (or can you?"

Well, technically you shouldn't be able to but as news stories have shown, some wealthy charter schools in suburbs have allowed some parents to be "founders" and pay a fee the school wants (and the parents get skipped up the lottery list by way of founders getting a push in). Nice, huh?
dan dempsey said…
From the Shanker Blog on charters:

As discussed in prior posts, high-quality analyses of charter school effects show that there is wide variation in the test-based effects of these schools but that, overall, charter students do no better than their comparable regular public school counterparts. The existing evidence, though very tentative, suggests that the few schools achieving large gains tend to be well-funded, offer massive amounts of additional time, provide extensive tutoring services and maintain strict, often high-stakes discipline policies.
dan dempsey said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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