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Thursday, January 19, 2012

My No to Charters

I'm going to express my thoughts about charters in general and then, in a separate thread, give an analysis of the current charter legislation.  

I waited until I had finished my series on charters.  I gave time for readers to read the series and hopefully, thoughtfully consider the evidence and experience that other states have had.  You may have noticed that I put the series (with links) at the top right of the blog along with a link to the State Legislature page that shows how to contact your legislator to give your opinion.

I will say this again - this blog is the only place that truly tried to give factual and complete information in order to allow readers to educate themselves on this issue.  We have never had charters in this state and so there are likely many, many people who don't even have a vague idea about what they are.

(Update: a lot of egg on my face from a brain that sometimes doesn't fire on all pistons.  Of course, I left out the wonderful work at the Seattle Education blog written by Dora Taylor and Sue Peters.  My apologies.)

This did not happen at LEV, Stand for Children or through the state PTSA organization.  They could have done this but chose not to do so.  Ask yourself why.  Why would there be pro and con discussions about charters from those groups without providing complete information first?

No big surprise - I don't believe in charters. 

Charters were about better outcomes in exchange for fewer regulations and more autonomy in teaching and learning.   For only 17% of ALL charters to do better than traditional public schools, after 20 years of trying and with the federal government now giving grants to start-up charter schools - I do NOT see the cost benefit ratio that makes sense.   What is most troubling is that if a school was not performing academically within a certain period of time, it was to be closed down.  That has not happened in the numbers you would expect given that 17% figure. 

Why don't I support charter schools?
  • First and foremost, after 20 years and 42 states, they have still not proven their worth in a large enough way to support their costs.  With the stats standing at 17% of charters (in all those states) doing better than traditional public schools (and about 43% doing the same and 33% doing worse) - those are not odds even Vegas would go with.  
  • I really support why charters started.  As you may recall, it was about creating innovation within a school.  Innovation created by teachers.  It has not turned out that way.  
  • From a review by Richard D. Kahlenberg of the book, "The Charter School Experiment: Expectations, Evidence and Implications edited by Christopher A. Lubienski and Peter C. Weitzel - The Minnesota legislator who authored the nation’s first charter school law also noted that “many teachers were frustrated with their work and were leaving the profession. I wanted to give them ownership.” In practice, however, Lubienski and Weitzel note that most charter schools actually reduce teacher voice and have come to “represent the institutionalization of anti-union interests,” which is why Shanker came to reject charters by the mid-1990s. With only 12 percent of charter schools unionized, charter school teachers are less well paid than regular public school teachers and leave the profession at much higher rates
  • Again from the book review - According to researchers at the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, 70 percent of black charter school students attend “intensely segregated” schools, compared with 34 percent of black students in regular public schools. 
  • Charter schools are more likely to serve minority and low-income students but less likely to serve students in special education.  They serve fewer homeless students.  This has a two-fold problem.  One, the resegregation of our schools.  Two, it puts more of the responsibility on traditional schools and the accompanying costs. 
  • Charters are less likely to employ teachers meeting state certification standards.  Studies point to that issue as one likely reason charters do not perform as well as traditional public schools.    
  • Teacher and principal turnover at charters is greater than at traditional public schools.   
  • Charter schools do not face sanctions often.  Most often charters go out of business because of problems with compliance with regulations/finances than student performance.  Authorizers in many states have problems with closing schools that have issues.  
  • From the DOE, There is a general expectation in the charter school sector that authorizers have a responsibility to regularly oversee charter school operations and progress toward meeting the goals in the charter. The reality is that only 36 percent of authorizers had a charter school office or staff in 2001-02, suggesting limited capacity to address charter school oversight. However, this finding varies by type of authorizer. For example, 85 percent of states that are authorizers have an office or staff dedicated to charter school work. Because states are more likely to authorize a large number of schools, they may require an infrastructure to provide adequate oversight.  More important, more than half of authorizers report difficulty closing a school that is having problems--a key responsibility of authorizers in this educational reform.

  • Despite the hope that charters would put competitive pressure on traditional public schools, there is little evidence that has happened.

  • Charters do better academically when they operate within a traditional school district and yet, there has been  rise in in CMO-managed charters.  
Charters, unless they are managed by a CMO (charter management organization), are little islands unto themselves.  They don't collaborate with the district they sit in.   They don't have to have regular public meetings with the communities they sit in or even allow the public to sit in on their Board meetings.  Board members for charters don't have to have any education background nor do most charter laws even require background checks.  


From the book review:  Charter schools remain popular with Americans because they serve an important function: providing an educational alternative for poor kids in lousy public schools. But the fact that charters are not, on the whole, any better than public schools suggests that the key impediment to equal opportunity does not lie with regulation or teachers unions or modes of school governance. Several successful charter schools throughout the country—such as High Tech High in San Diego, and the Denver School of Science and Technology—consciously seek a socio-economically diverse student population, heeding decades of research that suggest that low-income students will perform far better in economically integrated environments.

So what about those that do well?
 - One thought is that charters are smaller than most traditional schools (just as most private schools are).
 - Another thought is that charters have been shown to be able to manipulate who comes in (and stays in) at their schools.  Any time you are able to manage the population group, you will get better outcomes.

And yes, absolutely yes, there are some great charter schools out there.
Just like great private schools.
Just like great traditional public schools.

So a charter law for Washington State means that perhaps 20% of the charter schools would perform better than traditionals but there is no guarantee they will. 

Meanwhile, a school district loses money, the state takes on a huge burden of oversight and costs and all that for hope and a prayer for better.

It does not cost out for me.  I believe our own district is slowly but surely doing better.  I believe a lot more attention is being paid to our lowest-performing schools.  I believe our labor partners know all this and understand there needs to be more give and take.  Tacoma School District wants to be an innovation district and not just a district with innovative schools.  I believe that is what Seattle Schools should be as well. 

I believe it can be done and done without charters.

82 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dan dempsey said...

November 2009 Gates Foundation buys PTAs for $2,000,000 for three years.

Go Common Core Standards
"Purpose: to support implementation of a strategic plan for national PTAs to promote college-readiness, and higher student performance outcomes".

So is pushing charters part of the $2,000,000 or is that a separate purchase or perhaps it is a bonus item.

It seems, the PTA accepted $2 million to advocate for CCSSI. ..... Are PTA members starting to realize they are not really members of a grass roots organization any more?

Anonymous said...

In WA state, like many other states, the goal has never been to embrace charter schools. The purpose has only and always been singularly to destroy union representation so as to undermine a negotiated and competitive livable wage and the associated "power" that comes with that "privilege."

The only people claiming to support charter schools are those who want to gut the right to representation.

Seattle's successful charter school replacements, "alternative" and "option" schools have only been labeled as failures because they didn't fulfill the destroy-the-union mission. These schools were excellent and filled essential roles in our school systems up until they were attacked and negatively transformed by District mandates.

A couple of examples: AS#1 was a success turned victim, only because the aware parent base didn't buy into the current testing fetish and was willing to say so openly. Interagency Academy was too. Review the 2007 "External Evaluation Report" which praised Interagency as a model of alternative leadership, until MGJ arrived and targeted all "alternative" programs as failures to be destroyed. MGJ's entire agenda, exactly per her Broad training, was to gut the role of the teacher, because teachers are too expensive and too willing to care for children and their education then to follow curriculum directives/script mandates.

I love the idea of charter schools. Some of Seattle's best schools have emerged from such motivations. But, as soon as we officially designate these new schools as "charter" we will not only destroy them, we will also destroy the already fragile financial requirements for the entire urban system to exist and succeed.

Educational professionals invest more time and money into the success of our schools than most non-educators could ever imagine--to the tune of 10s of 1000s of dollars and hours. We could choose another path, say that of Texas, for example, where education is much cheaper, but the bar is also significantly much lower. We, as a society, must decide what is important and be willing to fund the desired outcome. The Gates' and the Broads', among others, believe that the we shouldn't pay much because we shouldn't expect/don't get much. I would counter that our most successful programs and outcomes have been undervalued and under-appreciated specifically because we have succumbed to the the rhetoric of the go-charter camps as they convince us to gut our values and schools that succeed despite the satisfied school community's objections.

Please consider an alternative: honor all children; refuse to buy into the charter school rhetoric by believing that some kids deserve more, or less, than others. We will all succeed by joining together, trusting together.

SPSinsider

Dave W. said...

You are exactly correct "Insider".

EVERY charter proposal in Washington the last 20 years has made certain that not even the blue collar support staff in charters can be union members. Under Pettigrew's and Tom's bills, as usual, folks like custodians and food service workers are prohibited from being a part of the host district's bargaining unit.

So the lunch lady has to be in her own union (and 1 person "units" are illegal) and the custodian has to be in his own union. Get the picture?

Its like saying "sure, you can clap...........but only with one hand".

Its how these "reformers" roll.

Always have.

Just union busting by a different name.

Coe girl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David said...

I think the strongest point is the one you emphasized, Melissa, that charters don't perform well. 17% perform better, 33% perform worse, the remainder have no detectable difference. The only reason to do charters is if they provide better outcomes for children. Unfortunately, as implemented nationwide, they don't.

I think Charlie Mas raised a good point yesterday as well, that charters bypass the crippling bureaucracy of district administration. That is treating the symptom and not the problem. The goal should be fixing district administration and making it effective (probably by shrinking it and reducing its responsibilities).

Finally, your last point, Melissa, is worth repeating, that we should open may more public alternative schools before taking the much more drastic step of charter schools. Alternative schools are popular and successful in Seattle. We should do many more of them.

Anonymous said...

There is more than "union busting" - it is about making sure that some of some cla$$ are on top, so that cla$$ can take whatever they want - and it is about making sure the rest aren't close to on top and aren't ever going to get a shot at taking from the takers.

Consider those revolutions of a few centuries ago in the Colonies and in France. On occasion the community attempts to have a government that is more than protection racket for the takers on top.

The truth is that for most of the world those in charge are there so they can take the most. Period.

That is what the USofA has been heading towards, and the string pullers of LEV, A4E, Stand On Children, DFER, PFL, CRPE are providing the ... intellectual ... justifications for entrenching aristocracy.

I'd like to see an American Idol program where the big boss or the little cheese who figured out how to make some bureaucratic process run as good or better than before, with fewer people - I'd like to see that / those people publicly celebrated for saving 50 or 500 salaries from the public purse. These people would get 2nd prize.

And then the people or team who figured out how to repurpose those 50 or 500 salaries into helping kids learn to read, or helping gramps get through his day, or maintaining hiking trails or parks ...

Those people or teams would win First Prize of American Idol!

Ha ha ha ... what a joke, right?

This is America - you get credentials, you get titles, you stick knives in backs, you get back room family favors greasing the wheels, you claim credit you don't deserve, you kiss your higher up's butt, you wreck jobs, you wreck the community ...

you get rich and worshiped.

TheyreJustRobberBarons

Melissa Westbrook said...

I deleted two comments because they were off-topic. I did this because I have seen this happening a lot lately and it's not a good trend.

If people go looking for a topic and then find it going off completely in another direction, it is frustrating. We have other methods if you want to start a thread.

You can e-mail and ask or put it up on one of the two Open Thread days that we have.

Thanks

RosieReader said...

Comments like the two I've outlined below are polemics and screeds -- how much broader of a brush can you find? And no different than comments that start "all immigrants are . . . " or "all LGBT folks are . . . . "

"The only people claiming to support charter schools are those who want to gut the right to representation."

"There is more than "union busting" - it is about making sure that some of some cla$$ are on top, so that cla$$ can take whatever they want - and it is about making sure the rest aren't close to on top and aren't ever going to get a shot at taking from the takers."

Just wanted to pipe in as someone who supports unions, decries the unfair advantages given to the 1%, and would support a well-written charter law, though I am adamant that we not waste our precious time on the issue until we solve funding.

So now you both need to find a skinnier brush.

Anonymous said...

Ok. We all get it. You hate charters. But let's look at some of the reasons.

With the stats standing at 17% of charters (in all those states) doing better than traditional public schools (and about 43% doing the same and 33% doing worse) -

For those in the 17% of charter schools doing better, isn't that worth something? Why shouldn't people get to go with something performing better? And then there's the whole problem with evaluating by tests. On the one hand, we note there are many things people value besides test scores - maybe these charters are "doing better" based on measures their constituents care about. They did CHOOOSE the charters after all.

Charter schools are more likely to serve minority and low-income students but less likely to serve students in special education. They serve fewer homeless students. This has a two-fold problem. One, the resegregation of our schools. Two, it puts more of the responsibility on traditional schools and the accompanying costs.

Lots of traditinal and alternative schools have exactly the same problems. Advanced learning programs "resegregate" the district too. Alternative schools also have traditionally failed to serve lots of students, including those with disabilities. That increases the burden on traditional schools along many axis.

And for the union busting bit with charters. Teachers unions support one constituency - teachers. What about students. A return to student focus is what is needed, and parents will continue to advocate for as many choices as possible for their children. Teachers union needs a challenge as well.

-observer

Anonymous said...

Uhhh...no, Observer, Melissa didn't say she hated charters. Stop it with the made up stuff.

"For those in the 17% of charter schools doing better, isn't that worth something? Why shouldn't people get to go with something performing better?"

I have a question. Why don't the 83% of Charter Schools faring the same or worse than public schools look to the 17% to improve their outcomes?

Oompah

Anonymous said...

Well Rosie - in certain neighborhoods, unless you talk in euphemism, and unless you use the language of the cla$$e$ who have the money to hire other people to fix your problems and keep your life in a nice Martha Stewart bubble -

you're using "polemics and screeds"!

I haven't replied for months to any comment you've written because your comments are typically go along get along don't rock the boat-ism.

While it Melissa's & Charlie's blog, hence their rules. But, if different people are going to hash out different ideas ... well, we're not all going to sound the same or think the same, possibly?

I don't like your ideas, but, I don't try to get you censored - and I do recall you trying to censor people quite a bit.

Is it the water in Seattle? 'We'll all be nice and we'll all have consensus ... once we all agree with ME!'

TheyAREJustRobberBarons

Melissa Westbrook said...

For those in the 17% of charter schools doing better, isn't that worth something?

Of course it is. But we are living in a time of dwindling resources. The staff who does analysis for the House/Senate examined the Senate bill and so far it appears it will cost $33M to fund. And out of that cost, we might get 17% of the charters to be successful?

I say it's too high a cost for so little a guarantee of pay-off. I believe there are other things that can be done.

You mention the segregation issue. The point is it is HIGHER in charters than traditionals. That is troubling. And the advanced learning kids are part of one group in a school and not the entire school.

And AGAIN, I have never said I hate charters. Read what I have written. I do not believe they work in high enough numbers to justify the cost.

David said...

The bar for charter schools has to be that they perform better than public schools educating children. Otherwise, there is no point in doing charters.

If only 17% are doing better than public schools while 33% are doing worse, charters are not just not helpful, they are actually harmful.

Anonymous said...

But David, what IS a "better job"? Is it only to be measured by standarized test scores, which is one of the complaints against the WASK and now MSP? Or is the measure more gray-like offerig smaller classes or more of an empasis on individualized learning, or project-based learning, or cultural learning (I'm thinking of an Alaskan Native school a commenter mentioned once)?

Maybe that's why parents are sending their kids to charters even though so many apparently don't eclipse public traditional schools in other states-because it's about more than test scores? And don't we want that?

Just Trying to Understand Charters

Mag mom said...

I have had my daughter in private Montessori school and now public Montessori. She is one of the lucky ones that made it from the waitlist to class. I appreciate SPS alternative schools, but don't think there are enough of them and it's unfair that it just comes down to luck. Therefore, I support charters and hope they come quickly to WA.

anonymous said...

"You mention the segregation issue. The point is it is HIGHER in charters than traditionals. That is troubling."

It is also HIGHER in our SPS alternative schools Melissa. Check out the numbers for yourself. Should we shut down our alts?

Besides our alts not being very diverse, they also don't serve as many kids with disabilities as the traditional schools do.

Almost everything people slam charters for is already happening right here in SPS - right under our noses.

FBF

suep. said...

Hi Melissa,

Your blog has certainly done a great job offering a forum to the community to share info and be educated about SPS and many related topics, and I have always been very appreciative and supportive. And I agree that the local mainstream media has done a pretty shoddy job reporting on education issues.

But I have to take issue with this comment, "I will say this again - this blog is the only place that truly tried to give factual and complete information in order to allow readers to educate themselves on this issue [charters].

Over at the Seattle Education Blog, Dora and I and various contributors have also been providing factual and pretty comprehensive information about charters, ed reform, merit pay, TFA, the influence of Broad & Gates, etc. both locally and nationally, for the last few years. In fact, we sounded the alarm about the ed reform agenda pretty early on, and we knew that charters were a big part of the corporate ed reformers' endgame.

Keep up the good work -- and we will too.

Thanks.

Sue

Anonymous said...

While I will NEVER relent in disparaging the social cla$$ of the ed-defibber $tring puller$, or, their motive$ -

I feel ill when I read about the complete garbage the kids of citizens have had to endure - never mind see it.

Proposition 13 came out of California in 1978, 34 $@#@% years ago, and it could have been and it should have been a wake up call on making community services work better. Those charged with running community services have done far toooooooo little to engender public trust that public monies are going to fix problems, instead of going to employ downtown paper shufflers and empire builders.

That 'moderate' technocratic branch of the Democratic Party was supposed to offer new solutions - remember Al Gore running around with "Reinventing Government" in ...'91? - and all they did was outsource everything to 'Democratic' bands of bandits.

This charter debate is a subset of the larger institutional rot - we've got a bunch of titantics lashed together, and the first class people are fighting over who is going to have the biggest bowl of caviar.

We REALLY need to fix how we manage large institutions.

ReallyReallyReally

Melissa Westbrook said...

So embarrassed. Of course, Dora Taylor and Sue Peters have been doing great work over at Seattle Education blog. My apologies.

"..because it's about more than test scores?"

That's a great point and one worth asking about because it goes to the heart of weighing the costs.

There was at least one study of charters that I read about where charter school parents were shown the data that the school they moved their child to was not doing any better (or worse) academically than the traditional one they moved from.

Most of the parents said something to the effect of "but we picked this school and like it."

Parent satisfaction is an important issue for a school. It drives more commitment and volunteers to the school.

But then you have to ask, though, is the state's job to make parents happy or to have better academic outcomes?

It's not necessarily either/or BUT if you have fewer resources, where do you put the money?

seattle citizen said...

""..because it's about more than test scores?"

Privatization forces can't have it both ways: MOst of the argument we hear about how dang terrible public schools are is predicated on these very simplistic test scores.

"Reform" has been built on state test scores, plain and simple: There is an achievement gap! We measure it by state tests! We look at NOTHING else about a school!"

To then argue that it's not about test scores, there's more to a school than these, is just silly.

"Test scores say we should restructure schools! Into schools where it's not about test scores!"

Great. Win-win for Reform - use test scores to paint an ugly picture of public schools, then ignore them in the charters.

Handy dandy!

Anonymous said...

Segregation is not a charter vs. traditional school issue. Schools, whether they are charters or not, often reflect the neigborhood demographics. If you look at DC public schools, schools are segregated because neighborhoods are still segregated de facto. Charters is very big in DC and is touted as a way to have "school choice" and DC is an extreme where income disparity is immense. Median income of folks who send their kids to private schools is over 250K and median income of folks who send their kids to public/charters hover around 50-60K. DC is an expensive place to live. Charters in cities such as New Orleans, Detroit, Kansas City are aimed initially at poor communties with "failing" schools.

There are charters in wealthier neighborhoods and they are often tailored to meet more specific needs for example: language immersion, STEM like, montessori, even religious (there was a big broo-ha-ha over a proposed charter aimed at perdominantly Orthodox Jews in a NJ suburb.) Look at the school stats and it will reflect neighborhood stats.

Seattle schools are more segregated with NSAP (especially w/o set aside). The district appeared to accept this collateral damage in order to deal with "capacity" issues. In the past, alternatives thrived along with school choice in Seattle. For parents who wanted their kids out of their "poorer" neighborhood school, they used to be able to send them North to "better" schools.

Under MGJ, alternatives started to change and became less "alternative" and now with NSAP in place, schools have become more standardized. Perhaps the idea is to reduce the disparity
of program choices and also to bring Alt schools more in line order to conform with NSAP schools. As Alternative schools are less alternative, then there is less to fight over so to speak. And more useful in terms of capacity management. We see some of this playing out within "traditional" school too with changes to spectrum program or new STEM proposal as a desirable draw.

Charter just add another unnecessary distraction (and cost) to the conversation right now.

-Let's focus on basic ed 1st

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing that we should allow charters so families at least have a choice.

I don't believe the push for charters is about choice. I went to every meeting for a couple of years about what parents wanted in the NSAP. None of these people who are now demanding choice were there. Where were they? Everyone who came was advocating for neighborhood schools. How did it suddenly get to be all about choice, when no one wanted it 4 years ago?

I also don't think it is about innovation or freedom from beaurocracy. Because the reform advocates who are pushing charters now, were cheering fidelity of implementation & pacing guides a few years ago. 'Teacher-proof the curriculum', 'every child on the same page everyday'. How can they advocate for charters as innovators now, but worked to standardize alternative schools before.

Such inconsistency makes me suspicious.

-Can't believe it

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If only 17% are doing better than public schools while 33% are doing worse, charters are not just not helpful, they are actually harmful.

And if 10% of our teachers are "doing worse" (as measured by test scores), they are actually harmful too, right? If X% of our traditional schools are "doing worse", then they are harmful. Should we close them? Should we fire those teachers? Maybe it isn't about those schools or those teachers. Isn't that the idea that has been repeated - in dronelike fashion. Those parents have an absolute choice in attending those charter school - it must offer them something they want. What is it? Why shouldn't my kid get it too?

=observer

anonymous said...

"But then you have to ask, though, is the state's job to make parents happy or to have better academic outcomes?"

Depends on how you define better outcomes? Are you just considering test scores, as the feds do? Because I think families value a lot more than just high test scores.

Would families prefer a public school that had a math test pass rate of 90%, but that school focused so much on math that it did not offer much in the way of PE, foreign language, the arts, citizenship, social studies, field trips? Or would they prefer a school that had a math test pass rate of say 85% that did offer a well rounded and enriched curriculum?

Some families might prefer a very traditional school with a 90% math test pass rate, while others would prefer an expeditionary learning alternative school that offered a very specific pedagoy but has only an 86% math test pass rate. It's a very personal decision.

How about language immersion schools? If JSIS had a math test pass rate of 85% while kids learned in an immersion setting, and the traditional school down the street taught in English but had a math test pass rate of 90% is the traditional school better than the immersion school?

Test scores are a measure, but they are not the be all end all, and they certainly don't look at the big picture of what a school is doing.

Just as teachers shouldn't be measured by their students test scores, neither should entire schools be measured by that data alone.

Families value different things. You can ride the "only 17% of charters do better than publics" if you want to, but test scores are only one little piece of parent satisfaction. By the sheer numbers of families CHOOSING charters there is something more to them than just test scores.

FBF

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Therefore, I support charters and hope they come quickly to WA."

I'm not clear on your point. Is it that you believe there will be more opportunities for choices in the types of schools or more Montessori schools?

"Schools, whether they are charters or not, often reflect the neigborhood demographics."

No, the point is that charters tend to be MORE segregated than the neighborhood schools of the district they sit in. That's what's troubling. Of course, there is still segregation happening everywhere and it's not really the district's fault. But that charters, for whatever reason, tend to have hugely higher numbers of children of color is something to note. And it's one of the reasons the NAACP does not support charters.

seattle citizen said...

Observer writes,
"Those parents [parents who choose a charter] have an absolute choice in attending those charter school - it must offer them something they want. What is it?

From what I've been able to figure out, the state test scores are used to portray an entire school as bad (when, as we've discussed here, it might be a number of factors that make parents think a school is "bad").

In addition, state test scores are touted as a "level playing field," something many poor and minority parent/guardians have told me they wish they could have: They believe that state tests are a way to show their child is as capable as anyone, when others (media, etc) have said they are somehow not capable (and generational poverty bears this out, that they are either actively repressed from expanding economically or might feel to be made less capable, which knocks the wind from their sails.)

So: At least in poor neighborhoods, it is my belief that parents/guardians believe that a certain public school is bad, so the neigboring charter must be better (as it touts an emphasis on test scores.) Additionally, we might note that there is a regimentation present in many charters that valued by many poor and minority parents. "Rigor," whatever that means, is often mentioned when discussions around students of poverty and/or color takes place - parent/guardians desire that there be a rigorous structure, perhaps because the communities in areas of poverty are often chaotic, but I don't know if this is the reason.

So a charter is attractive to some because they believe that it will provide them a rigorous path towards a level playing field - state tests.

I'm mainly discussing charters thrust into poor neighborhoods here, as the idea of charters as "choice" schools, apart from state testing, seems to be a red herring - most, probably 90% of Big Ed Reform charter activity is centered on charter operations in urban settings, aimed squarely at the children of the poor.

There's money to be made from tax breaks when one opens a school in a distressed neighborhood...

Anonymous said...

Mag mom said...

"I have had my daughter in private Montessori school and now public Montessori. She is one of the lucky ones that made it from the waitlist to class. I appreciate SPS alternative schools, but don't think there are enough of them and it's unfair that it just comes down to luck. Therefore, I support charters and hope they come quickly to WA."
--
I also appreciate SPS alternative schools -- my daughter attended Salmon Bay and thrived there -- and like you, I don't think there are enough of them.

My answer to that would be to create more of them -- and to demand that the administration implement that solution -- before I'd allow charters.
-- Ivan Weiss

Lori said...

One clarification. I keep seeing this 17% figure thrown around, so I went back and looked at the paper from which it came (CREDO report, 2009).

I don't think I've seen anyone mention one of the important caveats in this report: the finding that students in poverty and ELL students may actually benefit from charter schools.

"It is important to note that the news for charter schools has some encouraging facets. In our
nationally pooled sample, two subgroups fare better in charters than in the traditional system: students in poverty and ELL students. This is no small feat. In these cases, our numbers indicate
that charter students who fall into these categories are outperforming their TPS counterparts in both reading and math. These populations, then, have clearly been well served by the introduction of charters into the education landscape....The flip‐side of this insight should not be ignored either. Students not in poverty and students who are not English language learners on average do notably worse than the same students who remain in the traditional public school system."


I'm truly ambivalent on charters at this point. But, I thought this information needed to be in the debate, particularly since the CREDO report is being discussed.

seattle citizen said...

It almost seems as if TWO arguments are being put forth for charters:
1) They somehow address the needs of children of poverty and minority children (they purportedly "fix" the achievement gap, where a public school - the WHOLE school: "failing" - somehow is racist and classist and cannot "fix" the achievement gap, and
2) "choice": Supposedly parent/guardians want "choice," meaning NOT public choices but rather charter choices.

The first argument smacks of paternalism grounded in bizarre arguments;
The second seems more an attempt to destroy the public system as we know it, allowing public taxes to be merely given to any 'ol body that calls itself a school, sans governing, elected school board.

My opinion is that the Big Ed charter "movement" (lobbying, bizarre arguments, paid commercial spots in film, TV, and other media - Waiting For Superman; NBC's Education Week special; The Seattle Times, Crosscut...)sees urban schools, and their poor and minority constituents, as easy pickin's for "restructuring," and are starting with them, making the "achievement gap" argument. But the bigger goal is the elimination of public schools as they exist today by making schools individual entities, using tax dollars yet unaccountable to policy or goals, and as a by-product breaking one of the biggest bastion of organized labor.

seattle citizen said...

Lori, the piece you copy from Credo suggests that wholesale change (to a charter) benefits some and harms others. This is exactly the problem: Instead of addressing individuals IN schools, charters change EVERYTHING, often to the detriment of those who were succeeding.

More individualized attention; less wholesale restructuring. But we know that...

Lori said...

seattlecitizen, the logical step based on that information is to only enroll the population most likely to benefit, so a charter school dedicated to children living in poverty and/or ELL students might be worth exploring. However, diverting funds into charter schools designed to serve other populations might not be a worthwhile investment based on what we know today.

seattle citizen said...

Lori,

One reason I'm so uncomfortable with charter schools aimed at impoverished neighborhoods is the very segregation you mention when you write,"a charter school dedicated to children living in poverty and/or ELL students might be worth exploring."

I would much prefer that schools serve all their students, as individuals. To stigmatize a student by sending them to "that" school, based on parent's income or parent's primary language seems hurtful.

Choice IS a good thing (and is possible in a regular ol' public system) but creating a school for poor children doesn't address the "whole child," it merely makes assumptions about the student based merely on their poverty level - It generalizes attributes and assigns them to individuals, which is the bane of good education and the mantra of Reform.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

Here we go again. Seattle Citizen makes an argument against charters citing that SOME of them target and serve specific populations. That may be true. But wait, isn't that exactly what we see in SOME schools right here in SPS?

I'm thinking of SBOC that targets and serves only immigrant children. I'm thinking Middle College, South Lake, and Interagency that target and serve at risk, struggling, high school students. And how about The African American Academy, which targeted and served almost 100% African American staff and students. And wasn't BF day the school they shipped all of the homeless elementary students to?

Be careful where you point the finger because sometimes it points right back at you.

FBF

seattle citizen said...

Interagency and Middle College DO target students who have dropped out, or are being suspended.

I've long argued that they shouldn't exist, that struggling students should be served in their schools BEFORE they drop out.

Of COURSE some programs for specific populations with specific, identified needs will be placed in regular schools. (I'm not up on what BF Day does, though, I thought First Place served homeless children, but even if they WERE predominantly placed at BF Day, that is a regular school, as well.

ELL students are often served first at SBOC because they have NO English and need a crash course before transitioning to regular schools.

Yes, some choice in style of learning and teaching is a good thing - people choosing schools because that particular model seems right. But I disagree with a school set up to serve poor students. It seems...as I've said, hurtful.

African American Academy...A school set, ostensibly, to use an African American focus in its curriculum, but all students were welcome. But I'm not so sure I agree with that sort of model, either. Like a school based on class, it seems to perpetuate stereotypes.

seattle citizen said...

And when I say "some charters target" I mean that they see dollar signs: Reading the rest of my comment, this should be clear. It appears, to me, that people are profiting off of poor and minority students by foisting schools targeted at them into poor communities.
Big difference between a charter operation, making profit, and SBOC, BF Day and Middle College...

Anonymous said...

I would think that immersing children in a "culturally-oriented" school would do the reverse of teaching stereotypes. What better way to really experience the richness of one's culture or one's ancestors' experience. I'm curious what stereotype would be perpetuated in such a school?

n...

seattle citizen said...

n...

I hedged a bit in trying to see where AAA fits in because yours is a good question: What are the benefits/costs of a "culture-based" public school?

This question certainly bears scrutiny.

On the benefit side, yes, students could gain knowledge/insight/respect of and for the history and ongoing ways of a particular culture, something that might not be gained "regular" schools, which tend to give short shrift to many different cultures and, perhaps, spend too much time on the "dominant culture" (which I don't think is "white," but is capitalist and formed of "white" elements)

But there might be a cost to such a culture-based school: Yes, respect, knowledge, etc, but also a continuance of a separation between whatever culture the school represents and everybody else.

I'm of the "tossed salad" school of thought, as opposed to the "melting pot": I believe having a variety of cultures present and alive is a good thing. But can't we do that in ALL schools, instead of having a school set up for, say, a European cultural curriculum?

I'm more likely to believe that school variety is good when it comes to teaching styles, but not so good when it separates based on culture, race, or class. I just fear the effects of continued separation: Yes, there is a benefit to learning/celebrating one's culture, but does the separation do harm?

My concern for a long time has been what poor children or minority children think when they hear repeatedly that their "entire school fails", that "African American Children do X% less well on tests," etc. This continued presentation as some children, as a group, as somehow LESS than others makes me cringe. THAT is why a support addressing individual needs rather than making assumptions based on groupings.

Lastly, there is the issue of culture itself: A school set up as, say, the "European American Academy"....which culture would it teach or celebrate? Any child entering it would be, in this day and age, a composite of many cultures. He could be German/Kenyan; she could be English/South African/Jamaican...They could be rich, poor, newly rich or newly poor...

In other words, would we be setting up a school to celebrate/teach a culture we have created in our minds, some unifying culture of European-ness, and is this good for students?

I don't know. It's way too deep for mere typing to address here. I want to talk more about it, as I have been for years, and see if I can parse it out.

anonymous said...

SC, We have cultural focuses in many SPS schools.

And it wasn't just the AAA. Some SPS schools use European based models and philosophies, like Montessori. Others have Japanese and Spanish immersion and not only teach the language, but they teach and focus on Japanese and Spanish culture as well. Then we have international schools, that some argue against because they say the in depth international focus does not leave enough time to study enough US history. And lets not forget the Indian Heritage School. And Pathfinder that has a strong focus on Native American culture. And then there is NOVA that is a haven for the LGBT community... just to name a few.

These types of schools are what keep some families (and kids) in SPS.

Why is it that these types of schools are perfectly acceptable in SPS but if a charter came alone and created the same type of school it would be "segregating" students? The whole argument of segregation in charters is actually absurd to me, as all charters are "choice" schools, and families choose where they want to send their kids. Are we against choice now too?

FBF

Walter and Joanne said...

We've been around a long time.

We can remember the earlier version of Lisa McFarland: Ellen Roe, who was quoted in the media lamenting the fact that her granddaughter had to sit next to the child of a drug addicted "whore" in public school.

Although lifelong supporters of public education (kids gone now) and recently of Stephen Colbert for pointing out the curse of money in politics; we have grown so tired of the sick perversion of "public good" that "democrats" like Lisa and Chris K. peddle, that we have decided that rather than have our tax money going to support "little Lakesides" for the wealthy, that we are advocating for a provision in any (4th times a charm) charter bill put before the voters, that allows for the rebate of property taxes for education.

We'd rather our moey follow Mitt to the Caymen Islands than let these philistines have their ways with our tax money.

PS-Colbert thanks contributors with a message of "PS_Your money says hi". Ha-ha.

Anonymous said...

FBF, it sounds like you are saying that if Seattle public school can have segregation and choice, then why can't charters? Why fault one and not the other? That seems to be the agumment you are making?

Don't think SPS is encouraging segregation, but since the Uber Supreme Court have ruled out use of race and since we have gone to NSAP to manage capacity, and more importantly, where people live is something SPS cannot control, you will have "segregation". However, a charter can come in and make that emphasis even more pronounced. That's the difference.

The same can be said of choice. This is where pro-charter (and pro-voucher) have tried to use the strategy to win over wealthier, voting electorate. Folks who like the tailored apporach. Create a charter with public money to conform to your choice or style of learning.

In the past, SPS was able to offer more choice, not just where your kids can go to school, but what kind of school. The buget, MGJ, and now folks who want charter to be the one to offer "choice" have slowly put an end to that.

My beef is not even a philosphical one. It is where's the money for all this going to come from? Oh, yes, from the limiting budget that funds our current pubic schools. So take some of that away to start a few schools, and that leaves less to benefit the MAJORITY of kids? It isn't just the money. Even if you get a Charter in Seattle, where are you going to put it? We already have a capacity issue. It's all the layers of admin to oversee this, the attention from the main issue at hand. We are still stuck trying to figure out funding for basic ed, how to best educate the MAJORITY of our kids, where to put them all, and so on....

-wasting my time and money

Melissa Westbrook said...

FBF said:

And Pathfinder that has a strong focus on Native American culture. And then there is NOVA that is a haven for the LGBT community...

Many schools, including charters have a theme or focus (it's in the bill) so that Pathfinder has a Native American theme seems beside the point. And NOVA was not (and is not) set up to be a school for LBBT;it has evolved that way. Again, not a point of comparison.

Charters can set up any theme they like (Minnesota has many ethnically themed charters). The issue is the large number of charters that, for whatever ever reason, are highly segregated. (And that tends to be KIPP.)

It's not necessarily bad OR good but just a fact to know.

I'll explain how capacity and facilities come into play (among other things) with my thread on the actual charter bill.

Anonymous said...

Where to put a charter? There's the old MLK building for starters...then the bill allows for conversion schools, so low enrollment schools like Madrona are a possibility as well.

-speculating

anonymous said...

Here is a capacity management plan for SPS. Charters. Charters would enroll kids that were in our traditional public schools. Voila, SPS would not be over capacity anymore. Voila they could get rid of some of the portables. Voila, low enrollment schools like Rainier B., Aki Kurose and Madrona get shut down and taken over by charters.

another one

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and speculate all you want. So you are going to take over closed buildings and they are ready to open tomorrow if the state just pass the darn charter bill. No cost to make sure they are up to code. Ah yes, you can make an exception because it's charters and it's to help poor kids. No Wait, better yet, let's take over existing buildings. And kids from Aki, Rainier can go there. What happens if they don't want to go there? That's the plan? WOW! IF you're going to let charters take over any old school, why not Ballard or John Stanford instead? Frankly, that's where I like to send my kids to school instead of Aki or Rainier. So would my neighbors sitting right here (and she does have kids in S. Shore unless you want to take over that too!).

-Try again

Anonymous said...

The charter bill is written specifically to serve "educationally disadvantaged" students, with WAPTSA using KIPP and Green Dot as examples of high performing CMOs. I am merely speculating based on the way charters are being promoted in WA.

Schools with TFA recruits are also more likely to be conversion charters before schools like Ballard or John Stanford (conversions have to be supported by a majority of teachers OR parents).

According to the Seattle PI, representatives from the League of Women Voters, the WEA, the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, and the Washington Association of School Administrators have spoken against the charter schools bill.

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Lively-debate-in-WA-House-panel-on-charter-schools-2653175.php

Read the proposed bill.

Nothing in this section prevents formation of a charter school whose mission is to offer a specialized learning environment and services for particular groups of students, such as educationally
disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, students of the same gender, or students who pose such severe disciplinary problems that they warrant a specific educational program. Nothing in this section prevents formation of a charter school organized around a special emphasis, theme, or concept as stated in the school's application and charter contract.


http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2011-12/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/2428.pdf

A type of charter that couldn't happen is one for gifted students, as the charter school may not limit admission on any basis other than age
group, grade level, or [program/building] capacity


-speculating

Anonymous said...

It doesn't change what we want. What we want is a school like Ballard or John Stanford. My friend has smart kids and doesn't want a school for "disadvantaged" students. We want a school with advantaged students. We work hard and our kids work very hard not to be labeled as such.

Try again

seattle citizen said...

FBF, I've been giving a lot of thought to what you write, that we already have "cultural focuses in many SPS schools."
I'm also thinking about this in a more philosophical way: Is a public school that is oriented to one culture a good thing?

First, I'd address the schools you list as having a "cultural" bent. (I would start by saying that these are all public schools, responsible to the duly elected board):
AAA: A school that arose from the community, with the blessing and interactive assistance of SPS and board policy. Themed around African and African American curricula consistent with SPS curricular policy.


Montessori: you call this a "European based models and philosophies" but isn't it just a model of instruction? Is it "European-based," similarly using the culture and ways of Europe (as did AAA Africa)? I think it not, not any more than ANY school uses systems that emerged from European patterns a century or more ago. We can have that discussion, too: Is a "regular" curriculum euro-centric, and what of it IS eurocentric, etc) but to our purposes in this discussion I would posit "no", Montessori is not a cultural focus, but a curricular mechanism.

Japanese and Spanish immersion: These are "regular" schools that are not created to cater specifically to Japanese or Spanish (or Hispanic) children, but rather to use those themes as a part of a regular curriculum. Similar to AAA, but AAA arose much more to, in fact, cater to a specific demographic, to serve African and African American students.

International schools: Similar to Japanese/Spanish - themed "regular" curriculum that is not targeted at a specific group of students, "international students," but is rather a curricular theme to attract any and all comers.


Indian Heritage School and Pathfinder: Pathfinder is an alternative school that chose a Native American theme, not specifally to only draw Native American/First Nation/American Indian-identified students, but to serve ALL students as an alternative school with a Native theme; Indian Heritage is, similarly to AAA, actually targeted more specifically to a Native demogrphic, but is also a sort of Interagency school, like Middle College (and Interagency itself, in its many agencies) that exist primarily to serve struggling students.

"NOVAa haven for the LGBT community": Really? NOVA is first and foremost, and historically in its inception, an alternative school. That it is a welcoming community to LGBT students and staff is, really, just a result of its democratic and welcoming structure.

(continued)

seattle citizen said...

(continued from last comment)

So there are (were)two schools, perhaps, that are actually "culturally themed" specifically to attract students from those cultures: AAA and Indian Heritage.

Whether this is a good thing, I'm still thinking about that.

But they are all, first and foremost, PUBLIC schools, formed under an elected board, responisible to its policies, and part of the choices offered by a benevelent public, who pay taxes, elect board members, and administer PUBLIC schools in a variety of guises. THAT is the key factor, perhaps: ALL the schools you list are part of the commonwealth. Citizens are given a choice of schools, the best we can do as taxpayers and voting citizens, and they can choose from the offerings. In the charter model, a school just pops up (whether from community demand or some outside instigator) and says, "we want this particular choice, you didn't offer it, but we want it, give us the money."

The difference is that PUBLIC schools are agreed upon by all constituents (the public!) and offered through the board and policy, whereas charters are not something offered by the general public, in a worse-case-scenario they merely want what they want, school board and policy be damned.

Public schools (should) offer an array. If they do not, I don't think it's feasible for any and all groups to be able to use public funds to open their own schools. All schools should be under the purview of the citizens, through their board. Unless you want some system where we just get rid of boards all together, and the state can hand out our tax dollars to any and all comers...THAT seems divisive (and where you have an outside force that preys on profit from chartering and reducing things, perhaps racist and segregating.

anonymous said...

"But they are all, first and foremost, PUBLIC schools,"

Charters are PUBLIC schools too - funded by our tax dollars.

FBF

seattle citizen said...

FBF,
The difference is that PUBLIC schools are subject to Board policy, OUR board's policy, and Charters are not, to one degree or another. As I think I've made clear in my comment above and in other threads, I belive that public schools are those which are governed by a board. Charters are not.

As you indicated with your list of "fully" public schools that offered different things, it is certainly possible to have a variety of schools all under board policy.

What, to you, is the difference between a charter school and a public school? To me, it is that the charter is freed of some or all mandates that all other public schools follow. To me, this is a break in the chain of "public-ness": Those schools are outside the purview of our elected board.

At the extreme, as an illustration, if ALL schools were, in effect, charters because they were not under any policies other than their own, how would I, the taxpayer footing the bill, have any way to have a say in how my money is spent in a particular school? It's hard enough to participate in a district, and try to impact its policy, without having to monitor 90 different schools in the city to see how hey are spending my money.

That is why we have a board: They are our representatives in creating/running schools, as a service to the entire community. How would individual schools, sans board, be responsible to me for how they spend my money?

Anonymous said...

Agree FBF. Public schools should just be public. No need for gimmicky, redundant charter$.

try again (or right now-1st and 2nd generation cha gio makers)

anonymous said...

Like it or not charters are PUBLIC schools. You can argue about semantics, and governance all you want to, but the bottom line is that they are funded with our tax dollars, and open to all children just as traditional public schools are. That makes them public.

And charters ARE regulated. They are required to teach the state standards. Their students must take state mandated standardized tests. They are subject to the same NCLB sanctions as every other traditional "public" school is. And they can be (and are) closed for under performing.

Some are governed by their own private boards, some are governed by a district school board. The state has oversight and sets that policy.

You may not think that is good enough, and that is your right. Personally, I do.

FBF

Anonymous said...

Melissa has done some great research on charters nationally. Charters are not open to all children. Just depend on the state and the regulations. Some states have more stringent accountability, others do not. That is why the studies on charters aren't showing all those sterling qualities despite the hype. Lots of loopholes and more push by politicians to open up and expand without accountability. And yes, charters can restrict access. They can do so by not requiring open enrollment and madating equal access.

http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2011/02/23/
more-charter-schools-should-trigger-
more-and-better-oversight/

http://www.researchonreforms.org/html/
commentary/researchpapers/
Equal%20Access%20Denied.pdf

blog reader

Anonymous said...

Well now here's an interesting quirk of the proposed bill - schools can't limit admission based on gender, yet "nothing in this section prevents formation of a charter school whose mission is to offer a specialized learning environment and services for particular groups of students...such as students of the same gender..."

A charter school could be set up for an all-girls school, but because of the bill's wording, boys could not be prevented from applying since they can't limit admission by gender.

Kind of funny to think about.

an SPS parent

Anonymous said...

What, to you, is the difference between a charter school and a public school? To me, it is that the charter is freed of some or all mandates that all other public schools follow.

Charter schools are free of the union and other hiring practices of other public schools. Charter schools are free of curricular choices of other public schools. Charter schools are free to have a longer school year or day. Charter schools do not go through the superintendent of schools. Families choose charter schools.

(In the example above - RB or Aki students would never be forced to go to a charter school. They could choose one if they wanted but the district would still have to provide them a regular public school offering, even if charters were available.)

-reader

Walter said...

And FBF:

We don't want our taxes to pay for your kids going to school at your version of a "public" school.

In fact, "reformers" have so sullied the whole idea of a social contract of any sort, we "empty nesters" shouldn't have to pay taxes for other people's children at all, should they.

Fairs fair, free market, freedome to sink or swim right?

You would be totally free.

C'mon Boomers, LET'S ROLL for true reform!

Melissa Westbrook said...

"but the district would still have to provide them a regular public school offering, even if charters were available"

Yes, traditionals will ALWAYS be there to fall back on. Get kicked out your charter? Where will you go? A traditional school.

Charter goes under (and this happens with surprising frequency and, in California several year back, an entire charter system shut down and left over 1,000 students scrambling for a school. Guess who had to bail that out?

What was interesting at Michael's meeting yesterday was Ballard teacher India Carlson's comment that if freedom from rules was so good for charters, why won't the state just free ALL schools from this onerous regulations?

Anonymous said...

We had a wonderful potluck dinner last night and we did talk about charters. To summarize our fears and hopes about such proposal especially since Aki and RBHS was brought up as an example.

It sounds like charters are being proposed and aimed at mainly "disadvantaged" students, hence Aki, Rainier Beach catchment. Our fears are:

1) there's a lot of latitude in this bill for charters to operate using their "preferred" methods. The accountability will be state tests. There is talk of freedom. Freedom to choose curriculum, who you hire, texts, focus, etc. All this of course using taxpayers dollars. So if you are going to offer longer school days or school years, you have to pay for that. That's expensive. So to offeset cost, will charters use more TFAs or non-certificated teachers, or folks who are not even trained as teachers? Can they take ELL students or students who may not be ELL, but have not achieve fluency in reading/writing. To offeset cost, you may use more on-line learning not as an adjunct, but rely more to teach or drill kids. And who's to say the text they will use will be better than what the district is using now.

2) As the measure of effectiveness will be on standardized testings, there will be a lot of pressure for the 1st charters to produce. Our fear is that our kids will be taught to do well on these tests, but not for the depth and richness of these tested subjects or other subjects such as art, music, languages, advanced science and math, desgin classes, etc.

We are fearful because when you read in the press, the people who support charters are the same people who speak highly of changes by ways of TFAs, on-line learning, standardized testings, and schools aimed at helping "disadvantaged" kids. We are not rich people, some of us have decent jobs with good pay, others work hourly, some are small business owners, others are unemployed and use the local food banks at times. Our kids are all over the place academically, but none of us see our kids as being "disadvantaged" nor do we want to send our kids to schools for the "disadvantaged". It isn't just semantics, but the plan and thinking behind it. It might come from good intentions, but there is a lot of corraling of the"disadvantaged" into one place.

Our fear is kids would be limited to the option for charter or a local public school. The attention and resources will be on the charter because it is new, has very connected advocates, and get good press time. Meantime, the local public school will be neglected. There isn't just enough resources to support both and many will think we should be happy because we have school "choice".

A fair proposal and one that would really test for truths behind the rhetoric is if you are going to put a charter in the Aki or Rainier Beach catchment, then you allow those kids to go any schools in the district.

Try again

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said...

"We don't want our taxes to pay for your kids going to school at your version of a "public" school."

"We" Walter? And just what gives you the authority to speak for "we"?

I am "we". They are "we". You are "we". You speak for you, not for we.

And by the way, "We" paid for your education, and for your kids education. And you get pay for the next generation. That's how it works.

senseless

Anonymous said...

This is a strictly political argument against charters, so please bear with it:

I watched the entire House education Committee hearing on HB 2428 on TVW. The pro-charter arguments were exactly the same ones that had been made the three previous times that charters failed at the ballots. The voters have not, at any time, bought the arguments that the charter pimps are making now.

The people, instead, voted, by wide margins, to decrease class size and to give teachers a COLA. The Legislature, in its wisdom, failed to fund either of these voter-approved measures, and has not done so to this date.

So the Legislature -- or, I should say -- the Republicans and some VERY IRRESPONSIBLE DEMOCRATS -- not only have refused to implement a solution that we know the people of this state DO want, but instead they are chasing a solution that we know the people DON'T want.

Now I ask you, my fellow Washingtonians, what's wrong with this picture? And more to the point, what are we going to do about it?

We expect that from the Republicans. They are venal, incompetent, and unfit to govern. Democrats who pursue this path should either be pressured into changing their ways, challenged at re-election time, or hounded from the party or from office altogether. I for one have had quite enough of this bullshit. Those who know me also know that I do not write checks with my mouth that my ass can't cash.

-- Ivan Weiss

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Video and commentary on school choice/charters, as posted on Learning Matters:

http://learningmatters.tv/blog/web-series/is-school-choice-good-or-bad-for-public-education/8575/

FYI

anonymous said...

"What was interesting at Michael's meeting yesterday was Ballard teacher India Carlson's comment that if freedom from rules was so good for charters, why won't the state just free ALL schools from this onerous regulations?"

Same could be said of alt schools.

FBF

Anonymous said...

Lori,

You correctly point out that in the 2009 CREDO study "students in poverty and ELL students" did better in charter schools. However, the CREDO study, so far as I can tell, did not correlate performance with per pupil spending. Thus, we don't know how much money was spent on schools that had high populations in those two subgroups.

However, we do know that the 2011 Western Michigan University/Columbia Teachers College study of the nonprofit KIPP found that one reason for their "success" was an average per pupil spending of $18,491, which was about $6500 more than comparable public schools received in revenues.

The study also found that KIPP schools had selective entry of students and a high rate of attrition without replacement. Without a better understanding of why two subgroups did better in the CREDO study I would be skeptical of any claims that charters are the answer to the achievement gap.

DWE

Anonymous said...

FBF,

You wrote, "Charters are PUBLIC schools too - funded by our tax dollars."

The funding models for charter schools apparently vary. A nonprofit corporation such as KIPP can, and does, receive a lot of private funding.

Here is a fun thing to do. Go to this site:

http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/search.php

Specify KIPP for "Name." Then you can view the KIPP schools' 990s. The 990s will indicate the sources of revenue and will also, interestingly enough, tell you how much the charter directors were compensated.

In public testimony for HB 2428, Dan Steele of the Washington Association of School Administrators pointed out that not only could corporate nonprofits run charter schools, corporate nonprofits could contract services out to for-profit corporations. And as numerous speakers pointed out, nonprofit corporate Boards will not be publicly accountable. In my view, arguing that a charter school is public is a little like arguing that a military contractor like KBR is a public entity.

DWE

Anonymous said...

Finally, I would suspect that permitting a special class of superfunded nonprofit corporate charters to operate in Washington State is probably unconstitutional under Article IX, Section 2 of the state constitution.

How would KIPP do, then, with funding that was comparable to that of publicly managed public schools? Do we know that?

DWE

anonymous said...

" A nonprofit corporation such as KIPP can, and does, receive a lot of private funding. "

You mean like the New School at South Shore does? What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Of course this is just a diversion. Extra funding or not, charters get public dollars just like traditional public schools do, and so they are 100% public schools.

FBF

seattle citizen said...

And so, FBF, to DWE's point, Blackwater/Xe/Academi are public armed forces.

I'm not buying it. The difference, of course, is the accountability piece (as has been discussed at leangth in other threads.)

My money -> my board -> my schools;
not my money -> YOUR school.

Public schools are created by the public, all of us, and managed by our public boards as, well, public schools.

Charters can, apparently (at the extreme) just say, "we're a school, give us your tax dollars."

There are limited tax dollars. We spend them through our board and admin who decide how best to parcel it out. No, each group that wants a particular kind of school can't have what they want. But yes, our district, our board, can deliberate on how best to spend our limited monies.

A good analogy I read recently said that when your house is on fire, you can't ask for a particular station house to respond because they have newer trucks or whatever: It's a publc service, the fire department has limited tax dollars to allocate, and they apportion those dollars to the best of their ability. Don't like the fire stations offered? You can't ask me, the taxpayer, to just hand you a check so you can build a fire station more to your liking and get electric trucks instead of diesel or whatever.

seattle citizen said...

The charter school analogy to Blackwater/Xe/Academi is exactly analogous: Both are privatizations of public resources. Just as people have been able to lobby for our government to create profitable, private armed forces, so people are trying to lobby for our government to create profitable, private "public schools."

We shouldn't outsource defending this country and we shouldn't outsource the education of our children.

seattle citizen said...

DWE, I went to look at KIPP's 990s at http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/search.php
as you suggested.

What I'm confused about is who owns the buildings. It appears that they are paying mortgages, for construction, etc, using capital funds from public moneys.

Sooo...are these buildings the property of the public, or are we buying them for KIPP? Maybe someone can help me out on that one.

Strangely, Word Verifier says "constr" - must have got cut off!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will address all that in my thread on the actual bill.

Charters generally find their own buildings. However, they could ask for space, if available, in an existing building (like RBHS). Or better yet, convince the majority of parents (or teachers) there that they are better off with a charter and then take over the school.

I'll have to study the bill again because I think, of course, that they would get the building. Would a charter keep the auto shop and culinary arts programs going? Or would those go away (or get mothballed)? Don't know.

Any building the district is leasing or selling? A charter can buy it at or below the market rate.

I have to check the maintenance. I think the district is responsible for some maintenance but only for charters approved by a district.

Any charter approved by a district before a levy vote would, of course, be eligible for a percentage (per student) of the levy for their building (whether the district owns it or not). So whether the district owns it or not, or the charter owns it or not, we'll be doing maintenance on it.

They are silent on bond funds so I would assume the charters could not share in those funds (but bond measures need 60% so they are harder to pass).

seattle citizen said...

Looking at KIPP in Texas (their 990) it appeared that they received about 5/6 of their funding from various government entities (the remainder private sources.) From this, they paid about ten million in "construction" and more in mortgages.
So it appears that the public is funding the purchase/building of these quasi-public schools. So who owns them? What if the school folds, do they keep the building and sell it back to the public?

Seems like a large asset to transfer to a private entity...

anonymous said...

"I'll have to study the bill again because I think, of course, that they would get the building."

I doubt a charter would get the entire building. Remember with NSAP all students must have guaranteed assignment to their reference school. If the 380 students currently attending RBHS chose not to attend the new charter the district would be obligated to accommodate them at a neighborhood public HS. Since Franklin is full, and Cleveland is an options school, the district could not give up RBHS, at least not the whole building. A charter may get some space at RBHS though, and I don't think that would be such a bad thing. Better to have a charter in 1/2 the building, than have 1/2 the building empty (as it has been for 10+ years).

IheartSPS

Anonymous said...

NO matter how you slice it, this unfunded charter bill is going to cost plenty to set up, administer, monitor, and so forth. It's one thing if we are well funded for basic ed, but since we're not, we are going to take money from exisiting public schools for this experiment. There goes IAs, summer school, counselors, school nurses, smaller class sizes, etc. You know, things that help struggling kids succeed.

I sure hope some of you who suggested so easily of replacing existing schools or divvying schools with charters, have kids in these schools. Otherwise.....

-getting a real icky feeling

Anonymous said...

"Seems like a large asset to transfer to a private entity..."

Yup, SC. Can you say MLK/FAME?

Oompah

Melissa Westbrook said...

I heart SPS, no this bill doesn't allow for co-joining (or speak to it) unless the district is leasing/selling all or part of a property.

If a conversion charter, occurred, the charter would take the building. The district would own it but the charter school would occupy it.

anonymous said...

"There goes IAs, summer school, counselors, school nurses, smaller class sizes, etc. You know, things that help struggling kids succeed."

What district are you talking about? SPS hasn't had most of these support services for years. And class sizes are growing, not being reduced.

IheartSPS