Educate All Students, Support Public Education

April 19, 2020

New York’s Largest Charter Network, Known for Its Abusive Discipline of Children of Color, Gets Praise From Private-Charter Support Site “citizen ed”

Filed under: Anti-racism,Charter Schools — millerlf @ 8:59 am

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June 27, 2020

One of the well-funded Internet sites advancing the private-charter narrative these days is citizen ed. Funded by brightbeam, this site relies heavily on the taped interviews by Chris Stewart (a.k.a citizenchris). One noticeable interview by Stewart, featuring Eva Moskowitz, is titled “What We Can Learn From One of America’s Most Successful Networks of Public Schools.” The network is Success Academy Charter Schools.

Four years ago I blogged an article from the New York Times titled “No-Nonsense Charter Once Again Embarrassed.” The article was linked to a video of a horrific classroom incident from Success Academy charter school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

See the video at:  the video.

See the full article at:

I recently went back to see if Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, had learned the error of her ways. But an article published in the New York Daily News on June 17, shows she hasn’t. In the article it states, “An uproar alleging entrenched racism at Success Academy Charter Schools is threatening to upend the city’s largest charter network. More than 400 current and former Success students, staff and parents took to social media in the wake of George Floyd’s death under the banner “survivors of Success Academy” to share stories of both overt and subtle racism, according to the organizers of the Instagram page.”

To see the full article go to:

I suggest citizenchris interview the “survivors of Success Academy” before giving the platform to Eva Moskowitz.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png
Eva Moskowitz leaving a Success Academy school in Harlem with Ivanka Trump.

April 5, 2020

Why is the Milwaukee county executive race so important to Betsy DeVos?

Filed under: Charter Schools,Privatization,Vouchers — millerlf @ 2:26 pm

By Marva Herndon -April 4, 2020 Wisconsin Examiner

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. By Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0

Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s Secretary of Education, has long funded politicians who support voucher and charter-school schemes through her group, the American Federation for Children. The same American Federation for Children has funded school privatization efforts all over the country. Betsy DeVos is partly responsible for one of the biggest school reform disasters in the country – the privatization of Detroit Public Schools.

Now comes the election on April 7, 2020 — the Milwaukee Perfect Storm. Throughout this country the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted education at all levels. Betsy DeVos and local allies including the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC) see this disruption as a perfect opportunity to push their takeover agenda to the Milwaukee Public Schools. That’s DeVos is pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the race.

What could be the takeover mechanism? The County Executive and the Opportunity Schools program!

Most Milwaukee residents may have forgotten the Opportunity Schools & Partnership Program (OSPP) established by Wisconsin Act 55, in the 2015-2017 biennial budget. This legislation is still waiting to be executed by the Milwaukee County Executive. Chris Abele explains in a letter at the end of the Legislative Audit Bureau report on the program why he did not carry out the implementation of this statute, which lacked both state funding and local political support.

Why is it that so many school privatization figures are interested in the County Executive race? The OSPP requires the Milwaukee County Executive to select a program commissioner to operate the new school district it creates. This new district is created by selecting up to five Milwaukee Public Schools deemed failing on the Wisconsin Report Card to be transferred over to the new opportunity district each year. The new district must turn over these schools to a currently operating charter or voucher school. With additional deals or maybe contracts even a new school operator can join in this financial feast on the children and taxpayers of Milwaukee.

What does the school operator receive in the OSPP?

The expectation that the students come with the school building, along with the current per-student dollar amount paid to charter operators – between $8100 and $8900 per student.

School buildings and all the contents – statute is unclear whether the desks, computers and other equipment transfer with the building or if these items remain the property of the school district.

Termination of schools’ existing district employees – If an MPS school is transferred into the program, the program commissioner must terminate the school’s existing employees who are MPS employees and may reassign the school’s staff out of the school.

What does the program commissioner get?

The commissioner may charge each entity operating an opportunity school a fee of up to 3% of the total per-student payment the entity receives, not to exceed a combined total of $750,000 annually from all entities.

What do Milwaukee children and taxpayers receive in return?

  • Disruption of their education that provides no continuity in curriculum
  • For students with IEP’s (Individualized Education Program) or special needs, mental health services – there are no requirements that their needs be met
  • Loss of civil rights in charter or voucher schools
  • No accountability of any type to taxpayers
  • Loss of local control by elected school board
  • Loss of use and access to taxpayer-owned properties
  • Disaster for the city and MPS district as this program is not funded by the state and the city of Milwaukee holds the debt for the MPS District

Is the OSPP the reason that Betsy DeVos, MMAC, Howard Fuller, Chris Abele and many others are throwing around their influence and money in this election? What do you think?

Disclaimer: I am speaking as an individual, not representing any organization or government office.

Marva Herndon, who was first elected to the Milwaukee Public School Board in April 2019, is a graduate of West Division High School, has enjoyed a 25-year career as a computer programmer, and changed careers after retiring from Harley Davidson in 2009. She and her husband, Carl, are parents of four daughters, all MPS graduates. Their grandchildren who reside in Milwaukee either are MPS graduates or are currently enrolled in MPS.

July 3, 2019

New Orleans Charter Schools Audited Due to Grade-Fixing Scandal

Filed under: Charter Schools,New Orleans — millerlf @ 8:50 am

Parent Sues over New Orleans Charter High School Grade-fixing Fiasco
by deutsch29

A New Orleans charter high school operated by New Beginnings Schools, John F. Kennedy High School at Lake Area, is in the throes of a grade-fixing scandal that has resulted in at least 92 out of 177 (that’s 52 percent) of its Class of 2019 deemed ineligible to graduate after all.
One of the consequences of this colossal display of the ineptitude in overseeing New Orleans charter schools is that the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) superintendent Henderson Lewis has made the post-scandal decision to audit the student records of all New Orleans high schools.
Lewis has also asked the Louisiana’s inspector general to conduct a criminal investigation into Kennedy’s grade-fixing mess.
I wondered how long it would take for parents of Kennedy seniors to sue. Well, I need not wonder any more.
According to, on Monday, July 01, 2019, Darnette Daniels, the parent of a Kennedy senior who participated in Kennedy’s graduation ceremony then discovered she was not eligible to graduate, Tayler McClendon, did just that. On behalf of her daughter, Daniels is suing the State of Louisiana, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), OPSB, New Beginnings Schools Foundation, and TenSquare, LLC, a charter school support organization involved in the management of Kennedy.
One can view the 14-page lawsuit here: Daniels-v-New-Beginnings;
Daniels’ lawsuit details the chaos at Kennedy, including its impact on her daughter. Below, I offer the much of the text of the lawsuit. (Copies of emails referenced in the suit can be seen by accessing the link to the suit.)


July 24, 2018

New Orleans 2018: A Model for School Reform?

Filed under: Charter Schools,New Orleans — millerlf @ 2:28 pm

On August 29, 2005 Katrina devastated New Orleans. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said soon after, “Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to the education system of New Orleans.” His call for privatization reforms was supported by the Louisiana elite and business interests. Immediately following, national privatization interests became involved promising money if public schooling was dismantled. This included charter authorizers like KIPP, Teach For America (TFA) and voucher and private charter advocates like BAEO (Black Alliance for Education Options).

On September 29, 2005 all 7500 New Orleans Public School employees were fired, including all teachers. 6500 of the employees were African American. Private charters replaced most of the schools, hiring mostly white, recent college graduate TFA members.

Please read the following 2018 report by Dr. Raynard Sanders

A Failure On ALL FRONTS: What We Really Need To Know About SCHOOL UNIFICATION

By July 1, 2018, all schools under the Recovery School District-New Orleans will be under the control of the Orleans Parish School Board. But what does that really mean?

Dr. Raynard Sanders

In the summer of 2016, the mainstream media and others hailed the return of public schools from the state-run Recovery School District to the Orleans Parish School Board. The return was viewed by many as an accomplishment as they boasted that the schools were returning after making dramatic academic performance compared to the poor academic performance public schools in New Orleans pre-Hurricane Katrina. In reality, the unification plan does not mean that schools have improved or that the elected school board will have any real governance power. Consider that in an article in The Advocate in August 2016, Caroline Roemer, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, warned the local Orleans Parish School Board, “As the primary authorizer for public schools in Orleans Parish, OPSB needs to. . . restructure itself accordingly so that it serves as a thought and support partner for its schools”.  To be sure, words like “authorizer” and “support partner” hardly equate to real local governance.

While there were tainted voices from the community and the media declaring that the autonomy of the charter school boards and good leadership were responsible for improved academic performance after Hurricane Katrina, numerous researchers and journalists here in New Orleans and across the country have found that charter schools in New Orleans have consistently scored lower than public schools across the state of Louisiana on mandated state tests and the ACT Test (a national college admission test). The education reform efforts have also been criticized for the less than honest pronouncement of issues around access and equity, serving special needs students and fiscal mismanagement.

Remembering How the reform in New Orleans happened

In the name of school reform, within months after Hurricane Katrina, state officials along with powerful national organizations decided to drastically change the delivery model of public education in New Orleans from a system of public schools governed by an elected school board to a system of charter schools managed by unelected individual charter school boards.  The Louisiana Legislature passed ACT 35 on November 29, 2005, while the city was mostly depopulated after Hurricane Katrina. ACT 35 changed the requirements for state takeover of schools by raising the required minimum School Performance Score (SPS) score and redefining “academically acceptable”  and “academically unacceptable”. A school’s SPS is a composite score based on one of three student performance exams, the school’s dropout rate and its student attendance rate. Before Hurricane Katrina, a SPS score of 60 was the cutoff score for a school to be labeled acceptable. Any school in Louisiana that was designated Academic Unacceptable (AU) for four consecutive years and showed no improvement was eligible for state takeover and placed under the jurisdiction of the Louisiana Department of Education’s Recovery School District (RSD).

Act 35 significantly changed the rules by raising the minimum SPS score to 87.4 even if these schools had not been AU for four straight years. Act 35 also expanded the state’s takeover authority so that it applied to school districts with more than 30 “failing” schools and with at least 50 percent of their student population in academically unacceptable schools. The 30- failing school provision meant that Act 35 had a unique impact on Orleans Parish, the state’s largest school district. Given the fact that 50 of Louisiana’s 64 parish school districts have fewer than 30 schools, the vast majority of parishes will never be affected by the 30-failing school threshold. When Act 35 was written, only, seven parishes had more than 40 schools; and Orleans Parish had far more public schools than any other district—47 more than the next largest district. Overnight, the new lines drawn by Act 35 distorted the appearance of school failure in New Orleans. Public schools in New Orleans that received awards from the Louisiana Department of Education in May of 2005 were suddenly failing. A 2006 report by the United Teachers of New Orleans titled “National Model or Flawed Approach?” noted that if Louisiana officials had applied pre-Act 35 standards to Orleans Parish, the state could have assumed control of only 13 schools in New Orleans. Given the fact that ACT 35 only affected New Orleans, it was discriminatory and illegal as its citizens were suddenly removed from the public education process, while locally elected school boards were still managing every other school district in the state.

What school Reform in New Orleans looks like

The Orleans Parish School Board will exercise little control over charter schools under the unification plan, essentially having veto power only when school management organizations seek to renew their charters.

Despite the well-financed PR campaign by state education officials, school reform in New Orleans using charter schools as the new vehicle, has been a failure both academically and operationally. Charter schools created under the Recovery School District have consistently had the lowest SPS scores in the state of Louisiana. Since 2006, the charter schools in New Orleans have consistently scored poorly on state mandated test. All external analysis of test scores found poor academic performance by the Recovery School District’s charter schools. One of the early signs of trouble came from the Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Race and Poverty in a 2010 report titled “The State of Public Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans: The Challenge of Creating Equal Opportunity”, which stated:

  • Rebuilding of the public school system in post-Katrina New Orleans has produced a five “tiered” system of public schools in which not every student in the city receives the same quality education.
  • The “tiered” system of public schools in the city of New Orleans sorts White students and a relatively small share of students of color into selective schools in the OPSB and BESE sectors, while steering the majority of low-income students of color to high-poverty schools in the RSD sector.
  • Despite declarations to the contrary, the flawed one-App program actually puts the power of choice in the hands of schools more so than parents or students and only adds to the challenge of ensuring that every child in Orleans Parish has access to a quality education.
  • The “tiered” system of public schools in Orleans Parish creates a tiered performance hierarchy and sorts White students and a few minority of students of color into higher performing schools while restricting the majority of low-income students of color into lower performing schools.

In 2015, some 10 years after the school reforms were implemented, noted researcher Michael Deshotels reported that:

  • 83 percent of the public-school systems in the state of Louisiana produce better test results than the Recovery School District.
  • 94 percent of the other public systems produce better ACT results than the Recovery School District’s high schools. In 2015, the median ACT score for the charter schools in the New Orleans’ Recovery School District would not get its students into any Louisiana college or university.
  • The Recovery School District is very near the bottom among the 70 Louisiana school systems in percentage of students graduating from high school. The RSD graduation rate of 61.1 percent is dead last in the state, not counting the kids who drop out as early as seventh and eighth grades.
  • Even though most Recovery School District’s schools are advertised as college prep, only 5.5 percent of RSD students taking Advanced Placement courses passed the credit exams.

Riddled with mismanagement and corruption

More recently, researcher Dr. Mercedes Schneider stated, “It is even worse press to note that 12 years after that post-Katrina, state-yanking of schools, those schools have returned to OPSB (sort of– all-charter RSD schools are still under charter management organizations), and the entire district has fallen to a D in 2017, a year when most Louisiana districts either retained the letter grade they had in 2016 or even increased the letter grade from 2016 to 2017”.

In addition to the poor academic performance charter schools in New Orleans, the so-call reform effort has been riddled with fiscal mismanagement and corruption. The Recovery School District has been cited in numerous Louisiana Legislative Auditor reports for not following state and federal policy. Additionally, for nine consecutive years, the Recovery School District did not maintain and accurately report equipment as required by state regulations. Most troubling is the lack of fiscal oversight from which charter schools in New Orleans were created and have operated the last 12 years.

In its report, “System Failure: Louisiana’s Broken Charter School Law,” the Center for Popular Democracy described the lack of oversight and noted the corruption at charter schools. The report notes that the rapid growth and massive investment in charter schools have been accompanied by a dramatic underinvestment in oversight, leaving Louisiana’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers at risk of academic failures and financial fraud. The state’s failure to create an effective financial oversight system is obvious, as Louisiana charter schools have experienced millions of dollars in known losses from fraud and financial mismanagement so far, which is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

This lack of oversight yielded a barrage of unheard of corruption at charter schools in New Orleans. The Center for Popular Democracy cited a few incidents of corruption at charter schools in New Orleans:

  • In February 2010, the former business manager of Langston Hughes Academy plead guilty to stealing over $600,000 from the charter school by making more than 150 cash withdrawals from Hughes’ operating account over 15 months.
  • In 2011, an employee of Lusher Charter School’s accounting department embezzled $25,000 by forging five checks she wrote to herself from the school’s bank account. The school discovered the theft and it was reported in its annual financial audit
  • An employee of KIPP New Orleans Inc., the operator of six charter schools in Orleans Parish, misappropriated two checks totaling almost $70,000.
  • In May 2014, a special investigation by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor found that from January 2012 through September 2013, ReNew Charter Management Organization provided inaccurate information to the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL) to allow 21 ineligible employees at five schools participate in the teachers’ pension fund.
  • The operations manager stole over $9,000 from Arise Schools, a New Orleans-based charter group. The theft was made public in a 2014 audit but was discovered by the school when they noticed money missing from a debit card. The employee twice bought $1,500 in gift cards with the organization’s debit card, in March and June 2014.

Most importantly, the school reform pushed down the throats of the citizens of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina removed democracy from the citizens of New Orleans. Citizens have had no formal participation in the selection process of superintendent for the Recovery School District. The Louisiana Superintendent of Education has chosen all of the Recovery Schools District’s five superintendents since 2005. Taxpayers, citizens and parents have never been given an opportunity for input or comment on the Recovery School District’s budget. Meanwhile, since Hurricane Katrina, the Recovery School District’s budget rehas far exceeded the budgets of other school districts in Louisiana. They also have not had an opportunity to comment on the millions of dollars in contracts awarded at Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meetings held in Baton Rouge usually on weekdays at 10 a.m. and have had little or no input formally in the $1.8 billion of dollars of FEMA funds awarded to the Orleans Parish and Recovery School District to renovate and build schools damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Unification of Schools

The fundamental issue with the school unification law or Louisiana Revised Statute (17:10.7.1) is that while schools are returning to the Orleans Parish School Board with tons of problems that need to be immediately addressed, they are also returning with the same unquestionable authority they have operated with for the last 13 years.

The law makes it clear that “unless mutually agreed to by both the charter school’s governing authority and the local school board pursuant to a duly authorized resolution adopted by each governing entity, the local school board shall not impede the operational autonomy of a charter school under its jurisdiction in the areas of school programming, instruction, curriculum, materials and texts, yearly school calendars and daily schedules, hiring and firing of personnel, employee performance management and evaluation, terms and conditions of employment, teacher or administrator certification, salaries and benefits, retirement, collective bargaining, budgeting, purchasing, procurement, and contracting for services other than capital repairs and facilities construction.”

With that, the only authority the elected local Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) has is when the charter school’s license is up for renewal. While the state of Louisiana has renewed numerous failing charter contracts over the years, the basic problems have been the charter school’s daily policies and practices that have resulted in more than a decade of failure academically and operationally. We can’t expect any improvement in our schools if they continue on the same path of failure they have been on since 2005. We cannot give this kind of unquestionable authority to unelected charter school boards that have a history of failure in addition to violating state and federal law.  Complicating the matter even more so is that despite having their hands tied, the OPSB is technically liable for the charter school’s operations.

The case for revisiting school unification is clear. Presently, Louisiana Revised Statute 17:10.7.1 does not have any accountability standards that guarantee a quality education for all children. In fact, it only benefits the charter operator who can continue its present course of academic and operational failure.

It has been a failure on all fronts and most importantly, it has removed public participation and puts total control of our public schools and tax dollars in the hands of unelected and self-appointed charter school boards.

This revisiting should be led by the locally elected school board, in an open and transparent process with the inclusion of the voices from all citizens, and not just the usual charter proponents/organizations that created this disaster.

Dr. Raynard Sanders is an educational consultant and researcher, former principal and college administrator. He has written numerous articles on education equity and the privatization of public education and recently authored two books The Coup D’état of the New Orleans Public School District: Money, Power and the Illegal Takeover of a Public School System and 21st Century Jim Crow Schools: The Impact of Charter Schools on Public Education. Dr. Sanders also hosts “The New Orleans Imperative,” a weekly radio show that focuses on public education in New Orleans at 1 p.m. (CST) Mondays on WHIV FM (102.3 FM). 



June 12, 2017

Will Chicago Become the Epicenter of Charter School Unionization?

Filed under: Charter Schools,Unions — millerlf @ 9:22 am
Jeff Schuhrke June 8, 2017 In These Times

In the words of Illinois Network of Charter Schools president Andrew Broy, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country.”

In a move sure to worry neoliberal education reformers, unionized charter school teachers in Chicago are voting this week on whether to formally join forces with the most militant teachers’ union in the country.


The proposed merger—which would be a potential first in the country—would see the more than 1,000 member Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS), Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), amalgamate into a single union local with the nearly 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), AFT Local 1.


ChiACTS president Chris Baehrend said the potential merger “helps all Chicago teachers fight together on the same issues.”


Formed in 2009, ChiACTS is at the national forefront of organizing charter schools. Its members are not only winning union recognition across the city, but also showing a willingness to withhold their labor to win fair contracts, much like their counterparts in the CTU.


Since October, ChiACTS teachers have come close to going on strike at UNO, ASPIRA and Passages charter schools. But all three walkouts—which would have been the first charter school teacher strikes in history—were avoided by last-minute contract agreements.


In the words of Illinois Network of Charter Schools president Andrew Broy, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country.”


Though the CTU is undoubtedly opposed to the expansion of charter schools, as evidenced by the union’s successful effort to win a cap on new charters last fall, its leaders say they are dedicated to building teacher-to-teacher solidarity.


“Charter schools are here; they’re not going anywhere,” CTU president Karen Lewis recently said, continuing: “It’s the management companies we have the issues with, not the charter teachers, not the students, not the parents. The key is, organize people to fight for fairer conditions of work, and then that’s good for everybody.”


Since September 2015, the CTU has provided support to contract negotiations and enforcement for ChiACTS through a service agreement. Further, CTU members have frequently joined ChiACTS teachers at their rallies, and activists from both locals have met to discuss shared concerns through a joint committee.


“We believe that unification is a key step to allow educators to speak with one voice in Chicago, halt privatization and bring additional resources to our collective work,” says a letter from CTU leaders to delegates, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.


Union leaders acknowledge that the merger would be “a delicate process and will inevitably bring challenges and tensions.” This seems particularly true as the comparably small ChiACTS local would likely seek to retain some measure of autonomy within the much larger CTU.


Speaking for the charter companies, Broy described the unification move as a “hostile takeover” of ChiACTS by the CTU—a bizarre allegation considering ChiACTS members are voting on whether to approve the merger themselves.


“There will be trials,” said CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey. “I well imagine there are things that could potentially be tricky, but frankly you could say they’re the same things that divide our teachers now.”


Teachers at individual charter schools would still have their own contracts, and ChiACTS members would be able to run for seats on the CTU’s executive board and House of Delegates.


This week’s merger vote by ChiACTS members—the outcome of which will not be announced for several days—precedes a similar vote by CTU members, which will likely happen this fall. Further details have yet to be made public.


“When people hear the term ‘CTU,’ they’re going to have to understand that the CTU doesn’t just represent CPS,” Sharkey said. “It will more broadly be an organization for public educators in the city of Chicago.”


Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to In These Times magazine, or make a tax-deductible donation to fund this reporting.



Jeff Schuhrke is a Working In These Times contributor based in Chicago. He has a Master’s in Labor Studies from UMass Amherst and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in labor history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was a summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffSchuhrke.


January 7, 2017

City review of DL Hines Academy charter school

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 9:22 am

Video of the Milwaukee Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee review of DL Hines Academy charter school is up on Legistar at

Well worth watching.

December 20, 2016

Ex-MPS Board Member Bruce Thompson on Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos

Filed under: Charter Schools,DeVos — millerlf @ 10:58 am

See article at UrbanMilwaukee:

December 7, 2016

 Is Charter School Bubble About to Burst?

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 12:02 pm

Their shaky financing is causing failures locally, nationally. Yet Trump wants more.

By Terry Falk – Nov 28th UrbanMilwaukee

Universal Academy recently informed Milwaukee Public Schools it could no longer financially support its three Milwaukee schools due to a lack of enrollment. Both Universal and MPS agreed to allow Universal to continue operating at a single site, the previous Webster building, while two other sites, Green Bay and Lee, would be returned to MPS.

MPS officials believe Universal has attempted to be a good partner with the district. However, while Universal may have made a few mistakes, it could be a victim of a bursting charter school bubble that is beginning to appear across the nation. That problem was described by UW-Madison Prof. Julie F. Mead and has become all the more important since incoming President Donald Trump has signaled a desire to increase the use of charter and voucher schools in America.

Mead is a co-author of “Are We Heading Toward a Charter School ‘Bubble’? Lessons from the Subprime Mortgage Crisis,” an article in the February 2016 issue of University of Richmond Law Review. Their work is a follow up to a similar contention made in a blog post in July 2014 by Prof. Mark Naison, Fordham University in New York.

According to Mead and others, the subprime mortgage crisis began with some laudable goals of extending home ownership to as many individuals as possible. In exchange for little or no down payment, new home owners could obtain a mortgage with a ballooning interest rate that would kick in after a couple of years. The thought was, as they became homeowners, their lives would be more stable, their incomes might rise, and even if they had trouble meeting the rising interest rates, they could always sell the homes at ever increasing prices.

But that is not how it worked out.

Instead, many homeowners couldn’t make the mortgage payments, so fewer people could buy homes, home values crashed, and America found itself in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

According to Mead and others, charter schools may be headed in the same direction. Chartering organizations rushed in to take advantage of the charters being handed out by state legislatures, school districts, and other organizations.

And just as the housing mortgage crisis was fueled by a building boom resulting in overcapacity, too many charters were created with too many seats. That is one of the problems Universal faced here. And like the  homeowners who bought houses with little down payments and no money in the bank, many charter school management companies have little leeway in their cash flow if the number of students just are not there. They can’t weather the storm if problems develop at one or two schools.

Back in Philadelphia, Universal may be losing three of its eight schools due to poor performance. Universal is not alone in these problems.

Consider the story of American Quality Schools of Chicago. In 2012, AQS was approved for a charter with the city of Milwaukee and was seeking another with MPS. I opposed the charter and convinced the majority of the MPS board to deny the charter, incurring the wrath of several board members.

It is fortunate that we said no to AQS. When AQS first applied to MPS it was running or in the processing of running about a dozen schools from St. Louis to Fort Wayne, Indiana. But many of its charters were in trouble, and they were losing much of their portfolio. Today AQS has only two schools left; the rest have either closed or the chartering agency pulled its management away from AQS. The school authorized by the city of Milwaukee? It never opened.

In most cases, AQS never held the charters directly, but was only contracted as a Charter Management Organization (CMO) to run the school. That is still the case of its school in Fort Wayne. The Urban League holds the charter and contracts management with AQS.

CMOs, says Mead, “are the most similar to the subprime mortgage problem.” Moving from the chartering organization to the charter holder to a CMO is like the bank issuing a mortgage and then bundling mortgages to sell on the open market. Like the bank ridding itself of the liability of the mortgage, chartering organizations are removed from the liability of the CMO to operate in a fiscally responsible manner and provide a quality education.

The problem with most state charter laws is that the chartering organization takes no responsibility once they issue a charter until renewal time, says Mead. “The risk to the authorizer doesn’t exist.”

In the charter modification with Universal, MPS is exercising greater day-to-day financial oversight. Mead believes that state laws should require total financial transparency of all contracts. This is especially a problem with for-profit CMOs who believe they have little or no obligation to have open books as a private company.

Last year AQS tried to open a charter school in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but did not find enough interest to continue the process. It also attempted to open a private school, tuition based, in the higher income community of Batavia, just west of Chicago. It too attracted little interest and the project was abandoned. Now AQS is in China, trying to recruit students, offering the services to help them attend schools and universities in the United States – a long way away from AQS original mission.

There are a whole string of other major charter school players that have fallen on hard times. This is especially true for for-profit charter companies says Jessica Huseman in a 2012 Slate article. EdisonLearning was once the largest for-profit charter manager in the country, in control of 130 schools across 22 states. By 2012, it managed only five schools.

Large corporate models running charter schools across state lines in districts with various rules and reporting requirements makes it almost impossible for large charter companies to compete successfully. Yet we may see a push for more such charters under President Trump.

Terry Falk serves as a member of the Milwaukee School Board.

Falk blogged:

I actually mentioned College Prep in my original article I submitted to Bruce Murphy. I’m not upset that he cut it. The article was fairly long, and one cannot say everything in a few hundred words. Just like in the housing boom/bust, not everyone who went out and got a mortgage overextended their credit, but everyone got hurt by the bad housing policies around them. Even good charter schools are going to get hurt if there are few controls in the chartering process. I’m not even saying that Universal is a bad charter. I’m just saying we can’t have a total free market, dog-eat-dog, chartering system. When charters close, children get hurt.


September 28, 2016

Report on California Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 6:15 pm

Why California’s charter school sector is called ‘the Wild West’
By Valerie Strauss September 28, Posted at Washington Post

California Gov. Jerry Brown has to decide whether to sign legislation mandating more charter school accountability.

This is the second of four posts on the state of the charter school sector in California.

The charter school sector has grown over the last few decades amid a debate about its virtues and drawbacks — and even whether the publicly funded schools are actually public. Some charters do a great job, but even some advocates (though not all) are finally admitting that too many states allowed charters to open and operate without sufficient oversight.

Ohio and Utah have vied for the distinction of having the most troubled charter sector, along with Arizona, where there are no laws against conflicts of interest and for-profit charters do not have to open their books to the public. There’s also Michigan, where 80 percent of the charters are for-profit. And Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently issued a report and declared his state’s charter school law the “worst” in the nation. It’s a race to the bottom.

California deserves special attention as, in many ways, the charter Wild West. It has more charter schools and charter school students than any other state in the nation. One billionaire even came up with a secret plan to “charterize” half of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Among the problems:

* A report released recently (by the ACLU SoCal and Public Advocates, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy group) found that more than 20 percent of all California charter schools have enrollment policies that violate state and federal law.

*In some places, charter schools open without mentioning their existence to the traditional school district in which they reside, prompting lawsuits by the districts. The Grossmont Union High School District, for example, sued to shut down two charters operating in Grossmont under agreements signed by another school district. The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Scott Patterson, Grossmont’s deputy superintendent of business services, as saying, “It’s been described as the Wild West out there.”

*A Mercury News investigation published in April revealed how the state’s online charter schools run by Virginia-based K12 Inc., the largest for-profit charter operator in the country, have “a dismal record of academic achievement” but have won more than $310 million in state funding over the past dozen years.

*One charter school principal doubled as a National Basketball Association scout, traveling first class to basketball games around the country — and charged his travel expenses to his charter school.

*One charter school closed in 2014 after state auditors found a number of issues, including indications that administrators funneled millions of dollars in state funds to the schools’ operator and her family and friends. As the Los Angeles Times reported, some of the allegations against the school operator were downright “bizarre.” Auditors questioned the use of school funds to pay a more than $500,000 settlement to a former teacher who sued, claiming she had been wrongly terminated after she was ordered by the school director to travel to Nigeria and marry the director’s brother-in-law so he could become a U.S. citizen. The operator’s penalty? She paid “a $16,000 fine for misconduct that includes using public education funds to lease her own buildings,” the Times said.

What these reveal is a state charter law that allows the schools to operate loosely, with little if any accountability or transparency to the public. The charter lobby in California has successfully fought off legislative efforts to bring more accountability to the charter sector — at least so far.

Now, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has to decide whether to sign a bill passed by the state legislature that would require more accountability and transparency from the state’s charters schools. Brown, who has been a supporter of charter schools, has not indicated what he will do, though California’s treasurer, John Chiang, has said the legislation is vital to make charter schools more accountable to the public. Brown, who started two charter schools when he was mayor of Oakland, last year vetoed a bill that would have banned for-profit charters.

The following is the second of four parts on California charters, written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education. She was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year. The four-part series will be part of an extended national report on charter schools that will be published by the Network for Public Education in 2017.

[How messed up is California’s charter school sector? You won’t believe how much.]

By Carol Burris

Bryan Juan was falling behind in high school credits. Desperate to graduate on time, he left his public high school and enrolled in Desert Sands Charter High School. “I started off okay,” he said. “But even though I went almost every day and worked hard, I could not catch up and do all the paper packets — especially on my own. I got discouraged. I left and went back to my public school.”

Bryan was not alone in his failure at Desert Sands. The 2015 four-year graduation rate of the charter was 11.5 percent. Even worse, over 42 percent of the students who should have graduated that year dropped out of school altogether.

Desert Sands Charter High School enrolls nearly 2,000 students; almost all are Latino. It is part of the Antelope Valley School District, but you will not find it listed on Antelope’s website. Nor will you find Desert Sands at the Lancaster, Calif., address given on its own website. Bryan’s classroom was located in an office building across from a Walmart, nearly 100 miles away from both Antelope Valley Schools and the Desert Sand’s address.

Desert Sands is one of 15 independent learning center charter schools, which are defined as non-classroom-based independent study sites, connected to Learn4Life, a network of schools that claim to provide personalized learning. On its website, Learn4Life tells prospective families that it connects students to resource centers so that they can receive one on one instruction because “no two students are alike.”

Bryan’s classmates, Mayra and Edith, who also returned to the public school from Desert Sands, found their experience at the charter to be anything but “personalized.” They described education at Desert Sands as no more than a continuous cycle of paper packets, optional tutor appointments and tests that students continue to take until they pass. Three calls to three different Learn4Life charter schools confirmed that the instructional program was driven by paper packets that students pick up and complete. After packet completion, students take a test to earn credit. Although students can make an appointment for help with the packet, they are required to come by only once a week.
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Of the 15 charters authorized to Learn4Life operated corporations, 13 are required to operate high-school grade levels. Each school has its own name, principal and sponsoring district, but uniqueness ends there. The schools are in reality a web of resource centers sprinkled in office buildings, strip malls and even former liquor stores. They advertise themselves with nearly identical websites with the same pictures, quotes, descriptions of program, principal letters and a common phone number and address. The homepage of the Desert Sands High School is indistinguishable from the homepage of Diego Valley, as well as the homepages of 11 other high schools that are part of the chain. All that differs is the name of the school.

Diego Plus is one of the many corporations operated by Learn4Life. Diego Plus and its three Learn4Life charter schools (Diego Valley, Diego Hills and Diego Springs) are defendants in lawsuits filed by Grossmont Union High School District, San Diego Unified School District and Sweetwater Union High School District. The three charters opened their resource centers in the three complaining districts without notifying them. They were authorized by and are the responsibility of the Julian, Dehesa and Borrego Springs school districts, each of which receive considerable income for supervising these charters located far beyond their boundaries.

In total, the three Learn4Life Diego Plus charters enroll almost 2,000 students. Their respective four-year 2015 graduation rates are 10.8 percent, 19.3 percent and 0 percent. Forty-five percent of the students in that Diego Valley cohort dropped out of the charter school. It does not appear that long-distance supervision of storefront schools is working out well for kids.

Transparency and accountability, as well as legal efforts to force legal compliance, have been stymied and complicated by the continual changes in Learn4Life corporate names and addresses. A recent petition to the court on behalf of the Grossmont Union High School District lists 13 corporate names located at the same Learn4Life address. In 2014, there were no less than eight not-for-profit corporations listed at that Lancaster address that filed tax returns[1].

Each of those eight corporations received funding from the state of California. During the 2013-14 school year, the sum of all government grants given to those eight related corporations was $61,476,306. About 11,000 students are enrolled in the 15 Learn4Life schools[2].

Officers of the Learn4Life corporations play musical chairs with titles, often receiving compensation from several different corporations. For example, Steve Gocke is listed as the superintendent of Desert Sands Charter. In 2014, Gocke received $139,750 for serving as the secretary for the two different Learn4Life charter schools. Dante Simi served as the chief executive of six different Learn4Life related corporations and the CFO of two others. According to the organizations’ 990s, his 2014 compensation was $270,200. Dante’s son-in-law Skip Hansen serves as a senior vice president, and received a six-figure salary for his services. Simi’s wife, Linda, is also listed as a key employee of one of the corporations.

Perhaps all of the above attempts at obfuscation might be forgiven if the schools were actually getting the job done. But they’re not. The average 2015 graduation rate for the schools was 13.73 percent. Two of the schools had graduation rates of 0 percent. Dropout rates for cohorts ranged from 27.6 percent to 53.9 percent.

Are these alarming rates solely a result of serving at-risk students? Although Learn4Life advertises that its mission is to serve students who dropped out or are at risk of dropping out, its schools take students as early as ninth-grade, including those who simply want a quick and easy way to graduate early. There is no requirement for prior failure before entering the schools.

Learn4Life schools are not an anomaly. There are 225 independent learning charter schools comprising nearly 20 percent of all charters in California. In San Diego County alone there are 35, including three associated with Learn4Life. The 2014 graduation rate for all of the students enrolled in San Diego’s independent center charters, including the more successful home-school programs, was only 44 percent.

Given the results, why are so many Independent Learning charter corporations springing up across the state? Unlike brick and mortar charters, independent learning centers are relatively easy to set up and run. They appeal to disadvantaged students who want to work and finish high school, drop-outs who want to return to school, students who have emotional or physical health issues, home-schoolers, and teenagers who would prefer to not have to get up in the morning and go to school.

In addition, running independent learning centers can be very lucrative. One of San Diego County’s largest networks of independent learning centers is the Altus Institute. It advertises on billboards and runs ads in movie theaters and on television. Altus operates Audeo Charter, Audeo Charter II, the Charter School of San Diego and Laurel Academy. It has a total K-12 enrollment of about 3,000 students and takes in tens of millions of dollars in state and federal revenue. Like Learn4Life, its learning centers are located in malls and office buildings. Its younger students are home-schooled.

In 2014 compensation for Altus Institute President Mary Bixby was $371,160 — exceeding the total pay plus benefits of the superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District that serves nearly 130,000 students. Bixby is a board member of the charters, a full-time employee of one of the schools and also receives compensation for being “on-loan” to two others Altus schools. Such obvious conflicts of interest would be illegal in a public school.

Financial benefits extend beyond those who run the independent learning charter schools. They are also cash cows for the far-flung districts that authorize them.

Julian, a tiny elementary district, has fewer than 300 students that attend its schools, and it has not had a contested school board election since the 1990s. Nevertheless, there are nearly 3,000 students who do “independent study” at dozens of “resource” or “learning centers” operated by three corporations under charters that Julian sponsors, yet which operate outside its boundaries. A uniform complaint filed against the district identified that Julian receives more than $1,542,552 from charter oversight fees, creating a bloated administration whose salaries depend upon the oversight funding, thus creating conflicts of interest in regard to the fulfillment of oversight duties.

Such conflicts of interests have led to criminal behavior. In February 2016, former Mountain Empire superintendent, Steve Van Zant, pleaded guilty to felony conflict of interest charges after it was discovered that he was personally receiving 5 percent of the revenue generated from oversight fees from the 13 charter schools his district authorized beyond its boundaries. In addition, some of those charters hired the Van Zant consulting firm, EdHive, which provided services to the charters. Its website bragged that it could find authorizing districts for the those who wanted to open Independent Learning Centers that would save the charter schools money.

When the Van Zant story broke, the California Charter School Association agreed that the case raised legitimate concerns. However, legislation to address the problem of districts authorizing charters in other districts, and even other counties, was opposed by the California Charter School Association (CCSA) and vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014. A present bill on the governor’s desk, SB 739, would put a small restriction on a district’s ability to open independent learning center charters in other districts by ensuring that the sponsoring district is fiscally solvent (does not have a negative certification), thus decreasing the profit generating motive.

Despite the recent scandals, California Charter School Association Advocates, the political arm of CCSA, is opposing SB 739, along with AB 709, which would subject charters to the conflict of interest and transparency rules that public schools follow.

Although the original intent of the independent charters may well have been to scoop up at-risk kids and give them a second chance, the lack of criteria for student placement, along with inadequate regulations have led to obvious abuses. There are now far too many independent learning charter schools whose operators, some with no background or expertise in education, make substantial salaries, while cash-strapped districts grab students and revenue from other districts miles away.

Worst of all, the students who need the most support and daily guidance from adults are in charters that do not require much contact at all.

Mike Matsuda, superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District, is fighting what he considers to be the predatory practices of yet one more independent learning charter, Epic Charter, which has entered his district. His powerful statement to the Orange County Board of Education can be found here. Matsuda, who has been recognized for his leadership by Education Week, understands how tough it is to serve at-risk students well.

“Educating and engaging marginalized students who often suffer from chronic depression due to poverty, family dysfunction, or exposure to emotional or physical violence in the neighborhood is a complex process that’s definitely not cheap,” Matsuda said.

His Anaheim High School Program for at-risk youth and former dropouts directed by counselor/social worker, Joe Casas, provides emotional support and ensures that students have access to enriching electives, the community, field trips and the extracurricular life of the school. “All of this makes kids feel as if they have a home with us,” Casas said.

Meanwhile, Bryan, Edith and Mayra who came to the program from Learn4Life are now making good progress toward graduation.

“Teachers are more on my case to get work done. I come every day and if I have personal problems, there are counselors to help. It’s more supportive here.” Mayra said. Edith agreed. “Here there are assemblies and field trips and people to talk to. I feel like I’m home.”


August 31, 2016

A Turning Point for the Charter School Movement

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 10:42 am

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 By Molly Knefel, Truthout | News Analysis

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts poses for a selfie with supporters of his effort to lift the state’s cap on charter schools. Charters are facing formidable opposition this election season: Democrats passed a resolution this month opposing the proposed charter school expansion in Massachusetts, and residents will vote on the proposal in November. (Photo: Charlie Baker / Flickr)

A political battle is being waged over charter schools in Massachusetts right now, and it’s a microcosm of the state of the charter debate across the country. In the lead-up to a November ballot measure in which voters will decide whether or not to lift the state’s cap on charter schools, known as Question 2, Democrats passed a resolution this month opposing charter school expansion. The resolution states that the pro-charter campaign is “funded and governed by hidden money provided by Wall Street executives and hedge fund managers.” In response, the pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform drafted a letter to the coalition behind the resolution, called the “No on 2” campaign, claiming that they misrepresented Democrats’ attitude towards charters. “There is great Democratic support for public charter schools,” wrote Liam Kerr, Massachusetts State Director of Democrats for Education Reform.

However, public sentiment has actually been turning steadily against charter schools, and not only within the Democratic party. The NAACP recently called for a moratorium on charters, as did the Movement for Black Lives. Over the past year and a half, The New York Times published a series of scathing reports on the high-profile New York City charter chain Success Academy, including a teacher caught on tape screaming at a young student for a math mistake, a principal with a list of difficult students titled “Got to Go,” and students peeing their pants out of fear. John Oliver’s recent “Last Week Tonight” segment on corruption in charter schools in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania prompted a defensive response from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, acknowledging that the practices at the schools featured were “unacceptable” but insisting they “are not representative of charter schools nationwide.”

On top of all that, the Democratic party platform this year contains language unprecedentedly critical of charter schools, saying they “should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools” and “must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools.” It was such a break from the norm in the party that Shavar Jeffries, Democrats for Education Reform president, called it an “unfortunate departure from President Obama’s historic education legacy” that “stands in stark contrast to the positions of a broad coalition of civil rights groups.”

While charters have always been a controversial subject within the Democratic Party, there’s been a longstanding bipartisan consensus behind closing poorly performing public schools in low-income communities and replacing them with charter schools. Both No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top program encouraged the expansion of charter schools, and both initially enjoyed bipartisan support. And while teachers unions have been a consistent voice of criticism against those policies, pro-charter groups were often successfully able to write them off as self-interested. Even within the Democratic Party, reformers painted public school teachers as selfishly fighting for job protections — as if that’s the worst thing a worker could do — and not actually interested in the well-being of their students.

That narrative has always been misrepresentative and cynical. but for a long time, it has been dominant. That’s why the critical stances of the Movement for Black Lives and the NAACP are so powerful. At least since President Obama took office, and arguably since President Bush passed No Child Left Behind, charter schools have been winning the rhetorical war, presenting themselves as the compassionate solution for poor families of color struggling in an under-resourced public education system. When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to put up a fight against Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, arguing that the well-resourced network can afford to pay rent for public school space (Moskowitz herself makes six figures a year), Moskowitz went on national television and accused the mayor of wanting “to deny poor kids in Harlem an opportunity, a shot at life.” It was an effective strategy for Moskowitz, who got her free rent, allowing Success Academies across the city to continue to claim space from the same public schools she demonizes. It wasn’t until The New York Times series on Success Academy’s questionable practices toward its students, along with a federal civil rights complaint over the network’s treatment of students with disabilities, that Moskowitz found herself losing ground in the court of public opinion.

“We have a confluence of events,” explained Preston Green, professor of educational leadership at the University of Connecticut. “One is that we’re getting more and more evidence that charters are problematic, that there are issues with charters”– particularly, said Green, the issue of segregation. (A study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that “charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation.”) But that’s not the only factor contributing to the changing educational climate. “In addition, you’re seeing more and more discussion about fraud and mismanagement, and questions about whether the money actually makes it to the students and to the schools.” In the past, argues Green, charter schools called out for corruption were written off as simply “bad apples.”

But it’s becoming harder and harder to write off the types of stories featured in the John Oliver segment — schools over-reporting attendance in order to receive more public funds, CEOs convicted of embezzlement, or nonprofit charters directing government funds directly into private management companies — as isolated incidents. “Slowly but surely, people are starting to see this may be a systems problem, and that the fraud and mismanagement issues that we’re seeing in charters are not just because they’re bad apples, but because there is a lack of oversight,” Green said. He acknowledges that charters are still popular with many families and many Black families in particular. The pro-charter movement has “made the argument that choice is liberty,” explains Green. “But what you’re seeing very slowly are counter-narratives developing, and that while choice may be liberty, unfettered choice can cause all kinds of problems.”

Plus, he says, despite the enthusiasm for charters, Black communities have long emphasized the importance of oversight to ensure that charters are doing right by their students. “This debate has always been present,” Green said. “It’s just that there’s more evidence that indicates that it’s a problem, such that Black Lives Matter and the NAACP can come together and try to address this.” The fact that some charter schools are beloved by students and families, and that some are even structured around themes that meet particular needs of the communities they serve, doesn’t take away from the fundamental need to regulate the allocation of public resources out of public institutions (public schools) and into the private sector.

Interestingly, the pro-charter movement is largely built on the idea of oversight, or “accountability,” for public schools. The primary mechanism of accountability for education reformers is the type of high-stakes testing ushered in with No Child Left Behind and maintained under Race to the Top. Those programs’ “accountability” mechanisms were largely based around firing teachers and shutting down schools based on student test scores. But at the same time the Department of Education pushed for “accountability” for public schools by way of replacing them with charters, there are few systems in place to account for how charters spend the federal money they receive to educate their students, leading to the kind of rampant corruption outlined by Oliver.

The entire mission of the modern charter movement, allegedly, is to end educational inequality. It premises itself fundamentally on the notion that public schools are failing and that a marketplace of choices will give students and families better options. A better education, as goes the American way of thinking, is the way out of poverty. But that rhetoric just doesn’t hold up against the onslaught of stories of fraud, theft, civil rights violations, student push-out and a call to action by the nation’s most important movement for racial justice in a generation — a movement led by Black youth with an immediate stake in the fight for equality.

Plus, the defense of charters sometimes loses all sight of their stated purpose. In a truly baffling piece at USA Today earlier this month, Peter Cunningham, executive director of the pro-reform (and pro-charter) organization Education Post, argued that perhaps it’s not worth it to fight segregation, but to instead just focus on making schools better. Cunningham seems to have forgotten that separate schools that are equally high-quality, is an idea this nation decided was brutally racist and inherently unequal. “I support every effort to address poverty and segregation, but not at the expense of needed reforms,” writes Cunningham. Here, he shows his hand: “reform,” a movement theoretically created to address educational inequality caused by poverty, is more important than addressing poverty itself. Reform is more important than integration is an order handed down from the Supreme Court in 1954 that this country has, shamefully, yet to fully follow. Cunningham’s words are the logical conclusion of the goal of reform superseding the goal of equality — if you take reformers at their word that equality was ever really the goal.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, those fighting to expand charters are relying heavily on the language of equality. “I find it disappointing that the Democratic Party, which I feel is full of a lot of people who believe in equal opportunity and giving everybody a chance, would choose to be against something that is so important — especially to working-class families in underperforming school districts,” said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker after the Democrats passed their resolution against lifting the cap. But critics of charters now have more leverage than ever to puncture that narrative.

It’s been almost 30 years since Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, introduced the idea of charter schools as a way to better serve the highest need students. He envisioned a unionized workforce, empowered teachers and diverse student bodies. The best examples of charters today may adhere to Shanker’s vision, but most don’t — only around 12 percent are unionized, a quarter of teachers leave their schools each year (twice the rate of public school teachers) and they’re more likely to be “intensely segregated” than public schools.

Because the problem of educational inequity remains so entrenched, some families still seek out charters as the best option for their children. But the structural solution to inequality will never be a separate-but-sometimes-equal system.


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