The NY Post has been running a series the past few weeks called "War on Charters."
The gist of the series is that the valiant folks running charter schools are up against big, powerful, wealthy forces trying to destroy them.
Today's article is typical
- charters are wonderful, they have smaller class sizes, the buildings and facilities are nicer than regular public schools, the kids are engaged in learning, parents are involved - why would anybody want to be opposed to the charter school movement?
Here's my favorite quotation:
"Anyiha goes to a school where classrooms are small, her parents are involved in her homework, she studies violin and piano -- she's engaged, and she wants to learn. This is what we all should have, and it's needed, especially in black communities," Mcbean said.
Indeed, it is what we should have in every school, especially in the black community, and yet we don't.
Of course charter advocates say it is the big bad teachers unions that are the problem - just bust the unions and destroy their stranglehold on public education and every school will be just like the one little Anyiha attends.
But on the face of it, that's laughable. If the powers that be wanted every public school to look like the one little Anyiha attends, they would actually FUND
But they don't. Because they're not looking to actually improve the quality of education, they're looking to bust the union and privatize public education (as they have privatized and deregulated every other major part of American life since the Reagan 80's - from the way we fight our wars with Halliburton running things to the way quarterly results on Wall Street seem to be the only gauge of success these days.)
So let's bust some of those myths the Post has been running with the past few weeks and in the process explain just why Rupert Murdoch and other charter advocates are so scared by any outside accountability of the charter school movement (and they must be terrified, actually, because Murdoch ran 8 pro-charter, anti-union stories on the same day State Senator Bill Perkins held hearings on charters.)
First off, charter schools are not tiny powerless entities up against big powerful wealthy forces. Quite the opposite - they are the big powerful wealthy forces, backed by the hedge fund industry and Wall Street, with access to hundreds of millions of investment dollars across the country.
Next, they have some very powerful political advocates looking out for their needs (unlike the regular public schools.) Here in NYC, charter school managers like Eva Moskowitz have direct access to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein
and can get him to do things like close other public schools to give the charters more room or invite him to poker tournament fund raisers with all the hedge fund managers and Wall Street execs taking some time off from shorting the mortgage market
to help raise some cash for charter schools.
Let us also not forget that the mayor, the governor, the president and the secretary of education are all huge fans of charter schools and have been doing all they can to spread the movement far and wide while also doing all they can to hurt unionized teachers (think Central Falls, Rhode Island.)
Finally, let us remember that the reason charters have so many motivated children with motivated parents or guardians is because the movement ONLY
accepts motivated children with motivated parents. Show yourself to NOT
be motivated and you get counseled out of your charter school really, really quickly
(and you disappear from the state stas on schools too.)The same goes for scoring well on tests - score low consistently and the charter school will counsel you out (or have enough non-motivated students with low test scores - like one year at the Harlem Children's Zone - and they may just close down an entire grade
. Helps with the overall statistics, you know.)
So the Post can say war has been declared on charter schools and the big bad teachers unions are out to destroy the tiny powerless intrepids just trying to give small classes, good teachers and state of the art facilities to underprivileged kids of color all they want.
But of course it is all jive. What they really want to do is bust the unions and open up public education to private enterprise and for-profit school management companies like Imagine Schools.
The Times ran a four page article on Imagine Schools
and found that the charter management company
has elbowed the charter holders out of virtually all school decision making — hiring and firing principals and staff members, controlling and profiting from school real estate, and retaining fees under contracts that often guarantee Imagine’s management in perpetuity.
The arrangements, they say, allow Imagine to use public money with little oversight. “Under either charter law or traditional nonprofit law, there really is no way an entity should end up on both sides of business transactions,” said Marc Dean Millot, publisher of the report K-12 Leads and a former president of the National Charter Schools Alliance, a trade association, now defunct, for the charter school movement.
“Imagine works to dominate the board of the charter holder, and then it does a deal with the board it dominates — and that cannot be an arm’s length transaction,” he said.
Imagine is a private for-profit company that calls itself non-profit and runs schools with public money - making millions in the process.
Imagine charges exorbitant rates to its schools for "rent" - according to the Times article, a charter school in Nevada called 100 Academy pays 40% of the $3.6 million it receives from the state to Imagine Schools for rent.
That's an awful lot of rent money, isn't it?
In addition, they charge a fee to "manage" the school, leaving very little left over to actual run the school and educate the children.
How's that for leaving no for-profit charter school management company behind?In Philadelphia, a city controller's report found after a year-long investigation
repeated examples of complex real estate arrangements in which charters leased or rented facilities from related nonprofit organizations, excessive salaries for chief executive officers, compliant boards whose members are handpicked by school chiefs, and rampant conflicts of interest.
The controller also concluded that the Philadelphia School District had failed to monitor charter schools, leaving it and taxpayers "extremely vulnerable to fraud, waste, and abuse."
Here is New York City, politicians found charter schools and move them to land owned by political donors, even if that means sticking the kids in trailers on barren, undeveloped land near the ocean.
Or charter operators pay themselves close to $400,000 dollars
to "manage" three charter schools with fewer than 1000 students - a much higher salary than principals in regular public schools make. In fact, it is a higher salary than the schools chancellor makes or the secretary of education makes.
Or charter operators dole out the nepotism and conflicts of interest to family and friends as the Daily News reported on this week:
At some New York City charter schools, it's a family affair.
A Daily News investigation has found some charters hiring wives, husbands and children of school officials and board trustees as vendors, teachers aides and consultants.
Employees of public schools face penalties and suspension for even minor conflicts of interest, such as the teacher fined $1,250 last week for lending her parking permit to her husband.
But at some charters - which are publicly funded but privately run - there's little worry about bringing family members on board.
At the hearing on charter school financing held by Bill Perkins this week, charter advocate and New York Charter Schools Association Policy Director Peter Murphy said that charter schools are the "most accountable entities in the Western hemisphere."
Given the financial improprieties found in charters all across the nation, the test score manipulation schools like the Harlem Children's Zone engage in by getting rid of an entire class of students when the test scores aren't high enough, the financial predation of the charter school management companies, and the nepotism and conflicts of interest so many charter operators engage in, charter schools are actually the LEAST
accountable entities in the Western Hemisphere.
Only the derivatives markets and hedge fund industry seem to be less accountable than charter schools these days.
And look at the mess they've created.