The Charter Flood is Still Coming

A recent round of public disclosure documents tells me that I'm not wrong about the tsunami effect of ed reform that is likely headed our way. 

Frankly, I think that the state-supported Center for Reinventing Education is really nothing but a think-tank for ed reform.  They likely get at least half their grant money from the Gates Foundation.  I see almost no research on anything else but charters, CMOs, TFA starting a principal TFA (a number of you saw that coming), etc.  I don't mind it so much when it's a privately-funded right-wing think tank but it is depressing to see your tax dollars at work for a one-sided effort. 

The current push on ed reform:
  • something called a "fiscal analytics center" that Paul Hill at CRPE was pushing before he left there recently.  It appears to be a souped-up benefit-cost ratio idea.
  • using CRPE as a "lead" for any state-driven research so that the research looks more nationally-based.  This was discussed in an e-mail from an Ohio group.
The biggest idea - being pushed by the Gates Foundation, naturally - is this District-Charter Collaboration compact.   The Gates Foundation says this is "in response to requests" from school districts and charter schools for help in how to work with each other.  The first wave of this initiative can be found in Baltimore, Denver, Hartford,CT, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, NYC and Rochester, NY. 

Now this idea is allegedly around sharing best practices and getting on-board with the idea that the students in all public schools are, well, everyone's students.  And that's true and naturally sounds great.  They talk about charter schools recognizing that district schools DO have their own successes. 

But looking at what the compacts ask seems to favor the charters.  It's things like:

- districts allowing charters free rent/lease in buildings (either unoccupied or to co-house).  This is the number one issue for charters because it costs so much money to find and fix up facilities. 

-enrichment, meaning charter school students have access to activities like band (because the district has the equipment and facilities), sports (because the district has the equipment and facilities) and other arts (again, because the district has the equipment and facilities).

- professional development for teachers.  This one I get from the charter side because districts do this all the time but maybe this is where the best practices side comes in.

- enrollment services.  The districts will help with notification about charter schools and include their lotteries in enrollment services.  

Now some of what can come out of working together is economies of scale; districts already have a system for buying services and goods at a lower rate because of volume.  In return, charter schools share their "innovations" and promise to do better enrolling and keeping Special Ed, ELL, and other high-need students.

Again, it almost seems like the district gets the lesser deal out of this plan.  And, charters exist to get away from district rules but it seems like they DO like some of the district benefits.   Funny how that works.

From the Gates Foundation:

Through the District-Charter Collaboration Compact, districts will commit to replicating high-performing models of traditional and charter public schools while improving or closing down schools that are not serving students well. Additionally, each city Compact addresses contentious and persistent tensions between district and charter schools, and identifies specific opportunities for the two groups to leverage each others’ strengths in pursuit of a common mission.  

And guess who is publishing the annual reports for these compacts?  The Center for Reinventing Public Education. 

What's interesting is that I see some of the same language that TFA uses.  Here's what the Gates Foundation wrote in August 2011:

If you ask a 4th grader, "Tell me about your school," she'll tell you about her teachers, her classes, her friends.  One thing she won't tell you about - and won't care about - is whether her school is run by a charter or by a school district."

From the Seattle Times' article on TFA March 8, 2012:

Kenneth Maldonado's students have no idea he is a member of Teach for America.  If his fourth-graders heard the name of the organization, "They'd probably ask, "What's a Teach for America?" speculated Keisha Scarlett, principal of South Shore K-8.  

It's a lovely line but schools are organized and run by adults and some adults, especially parents, do have the right to ask questions.
Another interesting item in these e-mails is that twice CRPE wonders outloud about getting around the lack of charter legislation.

One e-mail asks about the School Board opting out of operating a school.  It was in November of 2009 from the legal person at CRPE to then-head of the SPS Legal department, Gary Ikeda:

I was wondering if you could answer the following question for me: under WA law, is it permissible for a school district to contract out the management of a school to an external provider?  

He then references an RCW that allows Boards to contract with a variety of entities to "contract for...educational, instructional, and specialized services.  Would this provision permit a school board to contract out the operation of an entire school?"

Unfortunately, there is no reply but I'm assuming the answer was no.

Then, in June of 2011, Paul Hill at CRPE writes to Greg Shaw at the Gates Foundation:

When we talked some months ago you expressed some interest in legal/equity research.

He then explains they have "someone on staff working on analyzing legal barriers to reforms and suggesting ways around them.  He is now particularly interested in "local control" principles and how they get in the way of state-initiated education reforms..."

He is also interested in ways states without charter laws (e.g.WA) can nonetheless promote school innovation, family choice and school continuation based on performance.  

Would anyone in the Foundation be interested in these ideas?

Again, there was no e-mail answer but I'm pretty sure there might have been a discussion.

Clearly, somehow, some way charter-like schools are going to make their way in (if these people have anything to say about it). 

Now I knew at some point in time, the "local control" issue was going to come up as education has always been a local control issue.  If Romney wins, DOE will shrink or go away.  If McKenna wins, I suspect a shrinking of OSPI will occur.   The state PTA can't even be straight on what they will or will not support in charter school legislation.   It's somewhat overwhelming.

On the other hand, I like to take a step back, take a deep breath and survey the Washington State landscape. 

Do we have charter schools?  No.

Have we ever had charter schools?  No.

Did charter legislation pass (even get a vote) this session?  No.

Is the Democratic candidate for governor supporting charters?  No.

Is TFA thriving?  No. 

So for a relatively small bunch of parents, communities, teachers and others who are working to educate everyone else on what ed reform means, we're doing okay. 


Anonymous said…
In the early 90's, I was watching this SMUG east coast privileged preppie - for those of you who are from back there, you KNOW what those people are like -

I was watching this smug smirking dunce, as Anne Richards said about his ideas - 'you can put lipstick on a hog and call it Monique, but, it is still a pig'

and the smirker went on to beat Anne Richards and Al Gore and John Kerry.

Funny how the DFER LEV SFC crowd of ed deformistas use the same tactics of that smug smirker - they just keep renaming the pig and keep changing the lipstick color.

mirmac1 said…
You should have access to Ikeda's replies. He was not providing advice to his client, so the records are not exempt.
Anonymous said…
Cecilia you ate assuming Ikeda replied. He was well known for not answering in email.

Sahila said…
Re whether charter schools are public schools: It needs to be pointed out that charter schools calling themselves public schools is a "LEGAL FICTION" they employ, to give them the rights of public schools (access to funding, resources etc) without the corresponding accountabilities or responsibilities....
mirmac1 said…
Then he must've been on the phone a helluva lot! Some of these fools will go to any extent to avoid transparency and accountability. That must be why this dude is still employed on the public dime.

And, no, I didn't ate when assuming anything about Ikeda because I would get nauseated. : )
dan dempsey said…
"Frankly, I think that the state-supported Center for Reinventing Education is really nothing but a think-tank for ed reform. They likely get at least half their grant money from the Gates Foundation. "

No doubt about that ... This is an Ed Reform "push factory" ... as to why our tax dollars are funding any portion of this I Have No Idea.
Anonymous said…
Charlie Mas,

What happened to your buddy, Paul Hill? Did he implode in the armchair (where he sat and collected his salary) while telling all the working stiffs out there (teachers) how to teach actual children?

What a loss to Seattle! OMG!

--enough already
mirmac1 said…
Yeah, who the heck are the Pulitzer Prize-winning ST investigative reporters going to interview after the next district boondoggle? Oh well, he could just continue to phone it in.
Anonymous said…
enough already -- ok, I clearly don't get it. What did Paul Hill do -- and what is the connection between Paul and Charlie?

Jan (trying to connect meaning-infused dots)
Yeah, Enough Already, what is your point?
Anonymous said…
From Charlie's Post:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Paul Hill Guest Column in the Times

Paul Hill, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, Bothell

"I've met Dr. Hill and we've had some interesting conversations. He is well-known as a charter school advocate. I strenuously oppose charter schools. So you might be surprised to learn that we actually had gotten along very well - we agree on nearly everything. We share the same set of facts. We both follow them down the same line of reasoning. But then, at the very end, we reach opposite conclusions."

...I guess the "we agree on nearly everything" kind of got to me. Sure, they reach opposite conclusions. But I personally think Paul Hill's process has been as disgraceful as his product (or the concrete lack thereof).

I'm a veteran teacher, so maybe my nerves are a little frayed.

--enough already
Charlie Mas said…
I have met the new director of the CRPE, Robin Lake, for coffee. We had a lovely chat and, once again, agreed on nearly everything right up to nearly the end of the line of reasoning, when we reached different conclusions.

I don't think it serves the discussion when you cannot presume good intent on the part of the folks with a different perspective. Not too many folks get into education to further their own narrow self-interests.

I have met and spoken with Robin Lake and I believe that she sincerely wants to improve the education - and therefore the lives - of children all across the country. I may not share her conclusions or endorse the same methods, but I don't doubt her sense of purpose.
Anonymous said…

"Let's agree to disagree" on agreeing with nearly everything that CRPE believes about education, right up to (and including) their conclusions.

I never speculated about Paul or Robin's intentions. But, then again, I have never asked them about their intentions.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
I won't question their intentions.

They attack the peee-ons in the system and they blame the peee-ons in the system because there is no money to be made attacking the leaders making the bad decisions in the system. If there is no money to be made, how will they be employed and how will they pay their mortgage?

I just wonder if they're the creators of the lies and the doublethink, or, are they not quite smart enough to be doublethink creators, but, they are smart enough to be better than anyone else peddling the doublethink.

(It is possible that they're even dumber - but, still smart enough to peddle MBS CDOs or predatory credit cards or substandard munitions ... but - why suffer the slings and arrows of peddling edu-snake oil when you could peddle MBS snake oil ?)

Do the math - how many astro turfs is Gate$ funding which are going after the LEADERS of the systems ??

seattle citizen said…
Whenever I see the acronym CRPE, I immediately associate it with CRP,or CREEP, as it was known to its many astonished and embarrassed detractors:
Committee to Reelect the President, "a fundraising organization of United States President Richard Nixon's administration. Besides its re-election activities, CRP employed money laundering and slush funds and was directly and actively involved in the Watergate scandal."

Now, I know CRPE is not (yet) implicated in Watergate, but it's starting to smell a bit like tax breaks, profiteering and other scandalous behavior similar to other detached and market-driven "reform" and reelection organizations...

"Committee to Reform the Public," indeed.
mirmac1 said…
Enjoying the comments on my "star wars" post:, especially one from thoughtful Seattle blogger, Charlie Mas

Even got a retweet from TeachersUnitedWA...
Anonymous said…
"dichotomous thinking and presuming good intentions"

Looks like when the facts start unravelling the lockstep narrative (poor performance of TFA, resegregation that is occurring with Charter Schools and the public backlash against the anti-teacher rhetoric), it's time to pull out Dr. Phil and pretend it's all about the poor relations between good people, who exist on reconcilable opposing sides (which, not uncoincidentally, coincides with the release of a new book with the same theme).

Lots of us already separate the inherent value of people from their religion and politics (and learned to do so years ago).

At the same time, we have acute B.S. detectors for hypocrites (who vastly change their message, depending on the audience), and for people who use pseudo-psychoanalytic principles to keep frauds alive and sellable.

--enough already (who thinks the 12step language is a bit offensive)
Charlie Mas said…
After you read her post about the false dichotomies, read the next one in which she says that school transformation is largely a myth.
Anonymous said…
I'd rather not, but I always appreciate reading suggestions.

--enough already

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