Tag Archives: charter school

2 PGCPS Students Arrested for the May 8 homicide

LARGO – Detectives from the Prince George’s County Police Department’s homicide unit have made arrests in the fatal shooting of an Upper Marlboro man that occurred near Prince George’s Community College earlier this month and it involves two students in Prince George’s County Public schools (PGCPS).

Homicide detectives have arrested 17-year-old Christopher Pineda of the 800 block of Narrowleaf Drive in Largo, and 19-year-old Erik Parham Jr. of the 5900 block of H Street in Fairmount Heights, in relation to the homicide.

Around 9:30 p.m. on May 8 2016, police responded to the 500 block of Harry S. Truman Drive for the report of a person shot. Upon arriving, they found 22-year-old Alim Rahim in a car suffering from gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Preliminarily, police said the motive appears to be a marijuana-related robbery. The two suspects have admitted to their involvement in the homicide and are charged with first-degree murder. They are in custody of the department of corrections on a no-bond status.

Court records show that Rahim was arrested in April 2012 for several counts of burglary, destroying property and theft. He was also arrested in Charles and Calvert County on a number of other charges.

Court records also show that in June 2015, Parham was arrested and charged with over a dozen traffic violations, ranging from failure to stop after an accident to leaving the scene of an accident.

The Reform Sasscer Movement argues the county Executive and the school board to commit resources on social services to avert these social problems which are on the rise within the Prince George’s county.

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The Cruel Charter School Addiction in Philadelphia

hite0Dr. William Hite Jr is involved in charter schools fiasco in Philly. The lure and promise of magic with millions of dollars squandered on charter schools that are no better–and often worse–than the public schools is an endless blame game which appears to have no end in sight.

Eileen DiFranco, a retired school nurse in Philadelphia, describes an episode from “The Twilight Zone” in which a sober family man encounters slot machines in Las Vegas and becomes an addict. He can’t help himself. He gambles everything and can’t stop.

She compares this gambling fever to the charter school addiction of districts like Philadelphia. No matter how many charter schools fail, the district leaders led by Dr. William Hite Jr want more of them. They are in love with the lure and promise of magic and they can’t stop. Meanwhile, the public schools suffer as do the children who attend public schools, while millions are squandered on charter schools that are no better–and often worse–than the public schools.

She writes:

With their “no excuses” mantra, highly paid charter school CEOs promise school administrators that they will bring students up to grade level in no time at all. It all sounds so attractive. And believable. School districts all over the country have been sucked in by this big, brash idea that sounds wonderful on paper, but has largely failed to deliver on its promises. This has not stopped the charter school operators from repeating their claim of educational superiority over and over again until it takes on the ring of truth.

But the reality is that the charter schools’ claims contain more “truthiness” than actual truth. According to Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a national study by CREDO that many cited to tout the superior performance of charters actually found that “less than one hundredth of one percent (<0.01 percent) of the variation in test performance in reading is explainable by charter school enrollment.”

Let’s put that alleged 0.01 percent success rate into a Philadelphia perspective. The SRC has approved charter school establishment and expansion even while the traditional public schools languish. As children are injured, or even die, as did Laporshia Massey at Bryant Elementary, or as violence occurs, as it did at George Washington High School, the fault somehow lies with the resource-starved schools and not the SRC’s addiction to the lure of charter schools.

The underwhelming performance of charter schools for an overwhelming amount of money should set off alarms. Their quick solutions to educational woes follow the logic of past failures: Just hand over the money and we’ll do it all for you. In the end, however, there is only one certainty: If something is too good to be true, it is not the truth.

Several questions need to be asked about this scenario. The first is, why would the SRC allow the majority of Philadelphia’s children to attend dirty, unsafe schools without counselors, nurses, and assistant principals while other children clearly do not? Why is there hardly any discussion about this glaring disparity?

I have a couple of answers. The first is that there is a plan afoot to break public schools deliberately so that they can be handed over to charters. Thus, the SRC and Hite are wreaking havoc by deliberately deferring maintenance and cutting staff to dangerous levels in traditional schools. This practice effectively insures the failure that is necessary to hand over the now low-performing, intentionally broken “seats” over to more “successful” charter operators who feel justified in cutting into the resources available to District schools. This is being done in a calculated way in order to break the teachers’ union, the whipping boy of modern school reform.

The second is that District leaders and politicians are trying to appease elected officials in rural areas who perceive city schools and urban children as great leeches feeding off public dollars who divert resources away from more deserving populations. For them, giving more money to ”those” children in urban areas is like throwing money into a pit. The idea in the Pennsylvania House and Senate is that throwing money at schools doesn’t fix them, although they believe that having enough money fixes just about everything else.

The third is that the SRC has become the ball carrier for hedge fund managers for whom education is a place where they can make money. The fact that school reform is being led by MBAs rather than by educators is telling.

Philadelphia public schools are dying. Who will be held accountable? The legislature? Former Governor Tom Corbett? Superintendent William Hite?

The leaders are chasing a rainbow, bright promises that have never come through for the children. They are killing a democratic institution that society depends on and needs. Can they sleep at night?

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3 Huge Problems With the Charter School Movement

hite1Dr. William Hite Jr who was a superintendent in Prince George’s County before applying to Philadelphia caused a similar mess in Prince George’s County. 

Philly.com has a story this week that distills many of the troubling qualities of the charter school movement down to a disturbing essence. All these millions of dollars are being drained in Philadelphia school district under Dr. William Hite Jr (pictured above).

Yes, it’s that bad.

This deeply reported piece by Alex Wigglesworth and Ryan Briggs zooms in on one school and one deal: the academically well-regarded String Theory Charter School, which is housed in a high-end eight-story office building at 16th and Vine. This is the same building that not long ago was the North American headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline. It would be eyebrow-raising enough if the taxpayer-funded String Theory were merely leasing such high-end digs. But the school — or, technically, a separate nonprofit run by two of the school’s board members — actually owns the tower, and acquired it through a $55 million tax-exempt bond deal.

Writes Philly.com:

It was the largest bond deal of its kind in city history.

It is also the most conspicuous example yet of a risky, expensive, and fast-growing financial scheme underpinning the rapid expansion of Philadelphia charters — a market now worth nearly $500 million. But the bond financing behind the mountain of money gets little scrutiny on whether the debt is a smart use of Pennsylvania’s limited educational dollars.

The lack of transparency can translate into deals that may be unsustainable. Shortly after moving into its flashy high rise, String Theory posted its first operating deficit. After revealing they were $500,000 in the red from paying out millions annually to bondholders, administrators told parents they were cutting certain classes and suspending bus service as cost-saving measures.

Deeper in the story, we learn that the school leases the property from that nonprofit controlled by two board members, and then collects $188,000 a year from the state, which reimburses charter schools for some lease costs. This is, we are told, not at all unusual arrangement.

The story also shines a light on the consultants and attorneys who are profiting off these charter land deals. One New Jersey firm has collected at least $5 million in consulting services for charters that have received municipal bonds to fund capital improvements and property acquisitions.

It’s a complicated story, and you really should read the whole thing.

But here are my takeaways from the piece.

1. Charter school administrators and leaders are every bit as capable as school district officials of making boneheaded financial decisions that saddle their respective institutions with crippling debt.

This isn’t exactly news, of course, but nonetheless the overwhelming public perception is that it’s public school districts that squander taxpayer money, not charter schools. This crippling, false perception makes it politically easier for politicians in Harrisburg to fund public Philadelphia schools at levels well below their needs.

To be sure, there are many charters that are managed responsibly and effectively. These schools are, by their very nature, independent operators, and the bad decisions made by some charters don’t predict bad decision-making by others.

But it’s long past time to set aside the clearly bogus notion that charters = efficient stewardship of public money, and public school districts = waste and fraud.

2. Profit-minded businesses are destroying whatever moral authority the education reform movement had.

I’ve long cringed when ed reform skeptics attacked the motives of charter advocates and others who’d like to see the public school system reinvented (or scrapped). With very rare exceptions, the individuals I’ve interviewed and spoken with in the ed reform movement over the years are True Believers: their fury and impatience with traditional public education is real and righteous. I haven’t always agreed with where they’re coming from, to say the least, but I’ve long dismissed accusations that reformers are in it for the money.

 Now I’m not so sure. There plainly is a large and growing group of interests within the education reform movement that stand to profit as traditional public education shrinks. There have always been the for-profit charter operators, the testing companies and the curriculum consultants. More recent are the reports of non-profit charter operators and leaders who have gotten involved in complicated financial arrangements with the schools they serve. And then there is the emergence of a profitable consulting and legal infrastructure that services the booming charter sector (as chronicled in the Philly.com story).

Wait, you might say, much the same has always been true of publicly-run school districts! And, yes, reports of bad contracts, undisciplined spending and politically-connected consultants were, in the past, commonplace in the School District of Philadelphia.

But that’s precisely the point. Charters were supposed to be different. Traditional public schools were beholden: to teacher’s unions, to political masters, to a powerful class of consultants and attorneys. Charters were supposed to be the indies. But as the charter movement grows, a big corps of financial interests has grown up around it. Increasingly, charters look just as financially beholden to an array of interests, only it’s harder to tell exactly who and what those interests are.

This is a really significant problem for ed reform advocates, and I’m not sure that it can be solved. The moral clarity of the early charter movement — nonprofit, about the kids, self-reliant — well, that’s gone. Increasingly, it seems not just fair to question the motives of ed reformers, but necessary.

3. The charter movement is way too big and way too ambitious to operate on an ad hoc basis.

As Philly.com reports, one of the entities authorizing these tax-exempt bonds for charter schools is PIDC, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. PIDC is an unusually effective organization (they run the Navy Yard, for instance), that’s run jointly by business interests and the City of Philadelphia.

PIDC’s reason for existence is economic development, and while you could make a case that building up charter schools is an economic development good, it’s hardly a slam-dunk, direct-line kind of argument. This isn’t a new Dietz and Watson factory.

John Grady, PIDC executive director, writes to say that the agency hasn’t made charters part of its economic development. Rather, he says, tax exempt financing “is regulated by federal and state law,” and that PIDC’s role is to administer “the legal process for accessing tax-exempt debt as required by, and pursuant to, these laws.” In other words, this isn’t a PIDC initiative, and charters are just using the agency to access tax-exempt bond markets, as is their right under law.

But is there a better way? One of the most interesting quotes in the Philly.com story comes from Bruce Baker, a Rutgers education professor and a frequent critic of the financing mechanisms used to fund charter schools. As Philly.com says:

Baker described the system as one that evolved out of necessity, with little foresight. No concrete financing vehicle was ever created for charters, and many schools had in the past relied on leasing buildings or taking out commercial loans with even higher interest rates.

“Who can blame them?” Baker said. “For each of the parties involved, their behaviors kind of make sense. But it’s still stupid public policy.”

There are 86 charter schools in Philadelphia alone, educating more than 64,000 students. This isn’t a boutique public education side business any more, and it hans’t been for a long, long time. And yet, we still lack coherent policy and mechanisms for something as basic as facilities financing for charter schools.

And it’s not just the buildings. The School District’s charter oversight office is still understaffed and under-resourced. And charter operators frequently bristle at the prospect of more accountability. But something’s got to give here. The charter movement can’t keep growing and eating up tax dollars while operating in the relative darkness.

Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/citified/2015/09/17/charter-school-problems/#gPLkkXcW0HQbI7KP.99

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Relay Looks for a Leg in Memphis, Finds Protest Instead

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Can Relay Graduate School of Education produce quality educators after a one-year teaching residency in one of Memphis’ charter schools?

The University of Memphis is reconsidering this question after faculty senate members have asked university president David M. Rudd to reevaluate the potential impact of a proposed partnership between the university, Relay, and Shelby County Schools/ Achievement School District.

The proposed program is drawing concern from faculty members and people in the community, where charter schools already use young teachers who obtain teaching certification from other non-traditional programs such as Teach for America or Memphis Teacher Residency.

The faculty senate unanimously voted to independently investigate any risks that Relay might pose to current university programs. Additionally, a task force likely to include Provost Karen Weddle-West, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Dean Ernest Rakow, and Professor of Educational Leadership Reginald Green will be established to offer recommendations for a university partnership with SCS/ASD.

Relay is a one-year teaching residency program available to undergraduates from any major, and while their training period is substantially longer than other alternative certification programs, some feel that it is still inadequate.

“With what they are doing, it is impossible to become a good teacher — especially if you do not have an educational background in areas like the psychology of education,” said Mate Wierdl, a U of M professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and a faculty senate member.

Relay’s official website outlines of their curriculum, that includes reviewing recorded classroom footage of student’s teaching interactions, as well as online tutorials. Wierdl, however, is perturbed by other concerns.

“We don’t exactly know what Relay is doing. We know that Relay is a company based in New York. We know that it is four years old. Otherwise, it has no track record whatsoever,” said Wierdl. “It’s just the strangest thing — that somehow charter school teachers can train other charter school teachers, and in New York and now in Tennessee, they can give out master’s degrees.”

The funding of the residency program has prompted other questions. The program is said to have a total cost of $5 million per year, which is roughly the per-year cost of the most expensive departments at the university, such as the Cecil C. Humphreys Law School. Some are a worried that the University is footing the bill – a claim University president David M. Rudd calls “absolutely untrue.”

“The University of Memphis is not funding Relay,” Rudd said in an email. “As mentioned, they are an independent institution. Philanthropists have offered to fund U of M students participating in the program. The $5 million figure is simply untrue. The University has expended no funds on this effort. If students did chose to participate and there was any portion of their costs unfunded by philanthropy, they would have to cover the difference with their own tuition payments.”

Still for Wierdl and other community members, the concerns around the potential three-way partnership go beyond a price tag or a certification. They find the broader matter of the privatization of public education to be the central threat.

“With what they are doing, it is impossible to become a good teacher — especially if you do not have an educational background in areas like the psychology of education,” Mate Wierdl

In the time since the first charter school opened its doors in Minnesota, 23 years ago, major cities like Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. have adopted charter schools into their public education systems. Numerous charter school studies have been published, and the divide over whether charter schools are a viable and sustainable educational system has deepened.

In Memphis, the first four charter schools opened in 2003. Now, 12 years later, Memphis is in the top 50 school districts in the nation for charter school development. For non-proponents of charter school systems in Memphis and elsewhere, a primary concern stems from charter school contracts with non-traditional teaching certification entities like Teach for America Memphis or Memphis Teacher Residency.

Mischa Nyberg from Put the People First, a community action group that addresses social justice issues in Tennessee, runs community meetings of parents, teachers, and students. They discuss the current issue of the U of M partnership in informative meetings, so that they may participate in community discussions with U of M officials.

“The Relay Graduate School is part of a much longer, much more complicated narrative of the corporatization of public schools than it seemingly projects, as is the recently announced partnership with ASD,” said Nyberg. The ASD is Tennessee’s state-run school district that takes over schools that perform in the bottom five percent state-wide.

A primary concern for many are the alternatively certified teachers that populate charter schools who, in turn, often replace traditionally certified teachers with more experience. In addition, the retention rate for large entities like TFA is low, with an average of 80 percent of teachers leaving after three years.

“The Relay Graduate School is part of a much longer, much more complicated narrative of the corporatization of public schools than it seemingly projects, as is the recently announced partnership with ASD.” Mischa Nyberg

For Nyberg and Wierdl, this alone is cause enough for concern.

“Relay is not only a threat to the profession of teaching, but it is a threat to a good, quality public education, which we believe is a human right,” said Nyberg.

Wierdl sees the high turnover rate of less-experienced teachers brought into the schools from the alternative certification programs as more than a threat.

“The Relay program is part of a cruel human experiment on the most disadvantaged children of Memphis,” said Wierdl. “It needs to be stopped.”

Put the People First plans to continuously monitor the potential partnership, as well as keep community members abreast of the latest developments.

The newly formed task-force will be holding meetings over the next few months. “This will allow for as much time as needed to identify and discuss all concerns,” said Rudd.

Nevertheless, through its website, Relay has announced that Memphis will be its sixth satellite location. The announcement alarmed those hoping to publicly discuss the university partnership.

However, Rudd says Relay’s announcement does not signal a solidified partnership.

“Relay is authorized as an independent educational provider in Tennessee,” said Rudd. “They do not need University of Memphis approval to operate in Memphis any more than any other institution, such as CBU, Rhodes, etc…”

via The daily helmsman

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LA teachers planning campaign to oppose charter expansion

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UTLA President Alex Caputo Pearl

UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said the teachers union is planning an aggressive campaign to oppose Eli Broadand other wealthy foundation leaders who have announced plans for a major expansion of charter schools in LA Unified.

In a wide-ranging interview that focused on the state of charters in the district, Caputo-Pearl was highly critical of the effort, asserting that charters are undermining the ability of traditional district schools to maintain a quality education for all students.

“We’re going to make every effort that we can to organize against the expansion of what are essentially unregulated non-union schools that don’t play by the rules as everybody else,” Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report. “So we’re going to take that on in the public, take that on in the media, engage the school board on it. We’re going to try to engage Eli Broad. We’re going to try to engage John Deasy because we understand he’s the architect of it. It will be a major effort. It is a major concern.”

The charter expansion plans involve three major foundations that have been active for years in education reform across the country: the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation. They said they intend to create enough charter schools in eight years to serve as many as half of LA Unified students.

The California Charter School Association has consistently denied that there are separate rules for charters, pointing to the fact that charters have to demonstrate academic achievement and financial stability to remain operating. Many charters do employ non-union teachers, but UTLA in recent years has succeeded in unionizing a number of them.

Caputo-Pearl’s targeting of Deasy evolves from Deasy’s association with Broad before and after he served as LA Unified’s superintendent. Before he was hired in 2011, Deasy attended the Broad Academy, which prepares senior executives for roles in urban education. He resigned as superintendent last year after problems with the iPad program, leading to a federal investigation of the bid process. Currently, he is a consultant for The Broad Center, a separate non-proft organization that helps train future education leaders.

Deasy was replaced as superintendent by Ramon Cortines, who says he intends to step down in December.

“It turns out (Deasy) is involved here with Eli Broad and and this effort, but what really offends us about Eli Broad is that he has been two-faced on issues of public education,” Caputo-Pearl said. “He publicly supported Proposition 30, which was arguably the most important thing in public education in decades in terms of restoring the system. Yet privately was funneling his cash in efforts to defeat it.”

Proposition 30 was a state measure approved by voters in 2012 that raised taxes to support public education.

The Board Foundation did not immediately respond to a message, seeking comment.

Caputo-Pearl and other teacher union leaders, local and national, have fought against the rise of charter schools, asserting that they undermine public education by draining financial support from public education systems and creating an educational caste system that favors some demographic groups over others.

For Caputo-Pearl and UTLA, Deasy personified the challenge for his open support for alternatives to traditional schools.

“We are concerned about these flavor-of-the-day interventions in the school system by billionaires who think that they know things, but really don’t,” Caputo-Pearl said. “The last major intervention that Eli Broad did at LAUSD was making John Deasy superintendent. That didn’t work out too well. We’re under an FBI investigation because of John Deasy. We finally, finally have begun to make improvements to the MiSiS system that spent tens of millions of dollars and had kids out of class for weeks. We of course had the iPad fiasco. We had the beat down of moral of (Deasy’s) autocratic style across the district. Our members are telling us we don’t need another intervention from Eli Broad in LAUSD.”

So strong is UTLA’s animus toward Deasy that Caputo-Pearl said he has urged the school board in its search for Cortines’s replacement to find someone “not out of the Broad Academy.”

“John Deasy was out of the Broad Academy. A lot of the people that he brought in were out of the Broad Academy,” Caputo-Pearl said. “Broad has 120 different people across California that have come out of the Academy who are in high management positions, clearly that’s part of the game that’s being played here.”

While the foundations are formulating their charter expansion plans and UTLA is devising its counter-measures, Caputo-Pearl said he would try to establish a productive working relationship with charter school advocates, such as newly-elected board member Ref Rodriguez, a former charter school executive. He and Rodriguez have met several times.

“One of main issues I raised with him is was that we feel a big part of our strategic plan is around public school accountability and sustainability,” Caputo-Pearl said. “I told him that we want to engage him this issue that all publicly-funded schools need to have common standards we need to adhere to, in terms of equity and access to all students, opportunities for parents to be genuinely involved, adherence to conflict of interest standards, financial transparency, basic common sense apple pie stuff.”

via LA School Report

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Dollars, Details And The Devil: Top 10 Needed Charter School Reforms

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“Oh it’s a long, long while from May to December,” Maxwell Anderson’s great lyric tells us, “But the days go short when you reach September.” And with the Ohio legislature’s inaction on anticipated charter school reform, the classic tune also reminds us that “One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.”

We already knew that while its citizens waited, the Ohio legislature left town as one festering charter school scandal after another went unaddressed.  In particular, a long-awaited piece of “reform” legislation, HB 2, proposed to address “governance, sponsorship, and management of community schools,” languishes in the wind tunnel located at Broad and High.

But maybe the Cincinnati Enquirer headline “Did dollars or details slow Ohio charter reform”? spoke volumes about the wind tunnel, calm now until September.

The proposed reform legislation would, according to the Enquirer, “prevent failing charter schools from swapping sponsors to avoid closure, require that attendance and financial records be available for inspection, force online schools to track how many hours a student is learning and eliminate conflicts of interest between those who run the schools and the groups policing them.”

The Enquirer article also points out that perhaps $91,726 in timely donations in June and July by charter school leader William Lager might have distracted Republican lawmakers from doing the right thing. After all, isn’t the devil – or is it the dollar – in the details when the subject is Ohio charter schools?

In the meantime, a close look at HB 2 – which is subject to further dissection when the legislature returns – shows that there are many other areas of governance, sponsorship, and charter school management that cry out for reform. So it should come as no surprise that, in reaction to legislative inaction, a group of concerned citizens assembled recently to assist lawmakers in doing the right thing.

In the hope (snicker) of getting some action from our legislators in September, our citizen panel decided to channel the spirit of David Letterman and compile a list of the Top 10 Needed Charter School Reforms. Here are the results of our deliberative body.

#10: Cut legal exemptions

Charter schools are exempt from 150 sections of the Ohio Revised Code.

The legislature needs to eliminate at least half of these exemptions by the end of the current session. After all, if proponents like to call them “publiccharter schools,” they should be more aligned to our system of public education and therefore not need so many exemptions from laws which public schools must comply with due to their public nature. If the charter industry objects, we should not let them have it both ways. Charter proponents should stop using the term public charter schools due to their resistance to increased regulation and fewer legal exemptions. In turn, the public should start using the termcorporate charter schools to better define their nature.

#9: Management companies subject to full review by state auditor

Here’s another classic example of the charter industry having it both ways. If you receive public funds, the public has a right to see how their money is spent or misspent. Add to that the requirement that any furniture, equipment, and real estate purchased with public funds is public property, subject to liquidation at auction upon closure of the school, with the proceeds returned to the state treasury. Recall that White Hat Management took the position that such assets were corporate and not public property. JobsOhio is another example of the principle of having it both ways. Public money and the assets purchased with such funds should not be convertible to private assets through a management arrangement.

#8: Eliminate Non-Profit Sponsors

The charter industry is replete with example after example of someone or some entity having it both ways. Non-Profit charter school sponsors follow that tradition. They accept public funds for serving as charter school sponsors or authorizers but tell individuals and organizations seeking information that as non-profits, they are exempt from public records requests. As with Nos. 10 and 9, if a non-profit organization accepts public funds, it should be responsive to such requests and the same scrutiny that other types of sponsors (school district, educational service center, vocational school district, university) accept as a player in the charter industry. The public is tired of the charter world having it both ways.

#7: Celebrity endorsements and cap on advertising

This charter school reform measure is tied in with Nos. 9 and 8. Public funds should not be used to pay for endorsements to promote charter schools. Worse yet, we’ll probably never find out how much ECOT endorser Jack Hanna or anyone else might have been paid because the management companies maintain they are private entities and resist audits and requests for financial information from state regulators.

#6: Accuracy in advertising

If a rose is a rose, a charter school should be called just that. Ohio is the only one of forty states authorizing charter schools that uses the term community school rather than charter. That term by itself – used in the original legislation – is purposefully misleading. My recent article on charter names pointed out that only a handful have the word charter or community school in their official title. The same is true for television ads, where the name charter isn’t used. As the school year begins and you see and hear ads for charters, listen carefully for what you might not hear in the commercial.

The local public school is a community school and a charter is a charter.

#5: School treasurers.  There is a continuing concern about the ability of charter school treasurers to adequately perform their duties when many serve multiple schools. One former charter treasurer , sentenced to two years in prison, was said to have served as the chief financial officer of at least nine charter schools at the same time, though other treasurers have served more than that number in the past. New legislation is needed to cap the total number of schools a treasurer can serve simultaneously.

#4: Governance reform.  With more than a billion dollars in state education funds being diverted to charter schools, it’s time to require greater transparency and accountability for the use of scarce public dollars, and governance reform is one place to start.  In a previous article, I wrote this statement: “The public school district that has the largest number of its resident students enrolled should be entitled to a seat on the board. Since state funds are deducted from the foundation payments for the district’s resident students and sent to the charter school where the student is enrolled, the district is entitled to monitor the performance and operation of the school, particularly when many of these students return to the district at some point.” In addition, lawmakers should require authorizer and parent representatives to be members of the board, with the parent seat filled by an individual selected at an annual meeting of the school parents. An additional part of governance reform would be to require all board members to be registered with the Office of Secretary of State, as is the case with other public school board members.

#3: Administrative qualifications. Incredibly, there are no minimum educational or professional licensure requirements for charter school administrators. This situation needs to be addressed immediately if all charter reform efforts are to be viewed as substantive. After all, school is about education.

#2: Citizenship requirement. In traditional school districts, board members have to be qualified voters – citizens – in order to serve as overseers of public funds. News reports in the last year have focused on one charter school chain where some of the board members and administrators may not be American citizens. If charter proponents want to emphasize the word public in the term public charter school, they should also agree that requiring American citizenship for board members is a no-brainer for the charter industry.

And the Number One Needed Charter School Reform –

Get the money out!

The influence of charter moguls David Brennan an William Lager on the Ohio Republican party are well-known. Money talks, and in charter world, money speaks loudly. Public funds – the profits gained from running privately operated schools with public money – should not be allowed to unduly influence legislators. The fact that HB 2 stalled at the very time that another $91,726 arrived to replenish state Republican campaign coffers is no coincidence.

If Mark Twain was correct when he observed that “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” the absence of lawmakers at Broad and High compounds the inaction on charter reform. But if at least two of these Top 10 Needed Charter School Reforms wound up being included in this year’s reform package,  that would be a small victory for the life, liberty and property of Ohioans.

What, then? Are these Top 10 Needed Charter School Reforms merely pipedreams?

Hardly.

In the meantime, time’s a wasting. The days grow short when you reach September.

Denis Smith is a retired school administrator and a former consultant in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office.

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You’re Fired!

Teachers at Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies voted to form a union—then a whole bunch of them got fired…

urban prep mainIt’s back to school season, reader. Which means that all over the land teachers are returning to their classrooms, armed with the $513 worth of school supplies they purchased with their own money. Well, not all over the land. Sixteen Chicago-land teachers at Urban Prep Academies won’t be returning to the charter network this fall because they were suddenly let go at the end of the school year Note: the firings had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that almost all of the no-longer-working-at-Urban-Prep-teachers were involved in a successful effort to form a union.

Picture yourself…looking for a new job
Regular readers will recall that we first encountered the teachers-turned-union organizers at Urban Prep last spring. As they explained hereand here, the teachers decided to form a union to redress what they saw as a serious problem: Urban Prep administrators’ lack of accountability to, well, anyone. So on June 3rd, a majority of teachers voted *yes* to having a union in a secret-ballot election. But instead of our story ending here, this is the point at which we stumble onto the treacherous shoals of labor law. You see, it took the Labor Board weeks to certify the results of the election due to large number of ballots that school administrators were contesting. And during this *grey area* period when the new union wasn’t yet officially official, Urban Prep fired sixteen teachers. Hows come? Well, because they could. Administrators are arguing that until the exact moment that the union becomes official, they are allowed to do whatever it is they feel like doing. Which would seem to be an example of exactly the kind of asshole-ish behavior that prompted teachers at the charter network to form a union in the first place.

You’re fired! And so are you…
So who were the teachers who were shown the door on the very last day ofurban prep rallyschool? Well, almost all of them can be found on pro-union flier above. Several were among the most senior teachers at Urban Prep; 80% were African American, in a network where teachers are overwhelmingly white. Some teachers were given no reason for their sudden termination. Then there is Mathias Muschal, chair of the English Department, who helped to found Urban Prep’s newest campus in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. He was fired for holding a pizza party for the track and field team he coaches. *The official reason was insubordination. I was told that the party was indicative of my disdain for leadership and an act of aggression because I failed to notify the administration about it ahead of time,* Muschal told me. He believes that the real reason for his firing has to do with his outspoken support of the union effort. When Urban Prep administrators held repeated meetings with teachers throughout the spring, at which they urged teachers not to unionize, Muschal pushed back. *CEO Tim King doesn’t like that I’m so outspoken,* says Muschal. As for the illegal party, Muschal says that if Urban Prep has an official policy that administrators be notified when students and parents gather for pizza, he was unaware of it. *I didn’t invite leadership because they didn’t show up for a single track meet this season.*

urban prep 1So what happens now?
Remember the treacherous shoals of labor law, well it’s time for us to navigate them once more. The Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which now represents teachers at Urban Prep, has filed unfair labor practices over the firings of all 16 teachers. Separate charges have been filed on behalf of Muschal and two other teachers, alleging that they were fired for union activity. In the meantime, members of the new union have been trying to get Urban Prep to bargain with them over the firings, sending letters and delegations to the network’s headquarters. And in recent weeks, teachers and community groups have held rallies, calling on CEO Tim King and board members to reinstate the teachers. To which the official Urban Prep response has been…crickets. Except for Urban Prep board member Mary Patillo, who recently bemoaned the decline of the Black teaching force in Chicago to WBEZ. *When you have big teacher layoffs or you have a decline in the number of black teachers, that could destabilize some of the neighborhoods that are most well-known as Chicago’s black middle-class neighborhoods.*

And now, for some trend spotting
So what have we learned today, reader? That when teachers band together to push for change in systems where all of the power rests in the hands of their bosses, they can end up on the receiving end of some of that power. Yet despite this, I’m betting that we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of the kinds of organizing campaigns that the Urban Prep teachers embarked on. But don’t take my word for it. Allow me to introduce you to today’s final guest: charter school advocate Dirk Tillotson, founder of the New York Charter School Incubator. When I heard Tillotson speak about charter school unions this summer, he made a forceful case that more unions are inevitable, in part because the individuals who lead charter schools are so often *hard-charging,* or in common parlance *assholes.* Had I really heard him right??? Well, yes. Says Tillotson: *I do see more organizing in individual charters taking place over time, with the increasing push for ‘results’ combined with the hard charging attitudes of some charter leaders (who may or may not understand how to efficiently run a school or manage adults within one) tend to kind of just keep pushing mandates down on staff, and eventually—in some cases—those staff will organize.  Shite tend to flow downhill in poorly managed schools, and some teachers will just leave, but others may see the organizing as the way to create a dam.*

So there you have it…

Note: if you’d like to show your support for the fired teachers, send a letter to Urban Prep board members, demanding their reinstatement.

via EduShyster is the blog

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