Wednesday, February 27, 2013

First they came for the public schools...

Charter school operators took over DuSable High School in 2005
Now that two charter schools, Betty Shabazz Leadership Academy at DuSable and Mirta Ramirez Computer Science High School, run by ASPIRA, are on Byrd-Bennett's [s]hit list for poor performance, watch the charter operators scream "unfair" and ask local pols to intervene. I agree, it is unfair that the survival of any school is based mainly on student test scores. Those scores correlate much more closely with poverty than anything going on inside the classroom.

But they should have thought of that before they became cheerleaders for the closing of neighborhood schools for the same reason and before taking their public funds and resources moving into the facilities that they once occupied. It reminds me Martin Niemöller's old adage, "First they came for the..."

The latest round of proposed closings will lead to even further destabilization in the lives of children and their families, including more violence and possible killings.

Ralph Ellison charter
Bryan Lowry has a good piece in Medill Reports, "Measuring Up: How Should Charter School Success Be Measured" in which he takes a look at Chicago International's Ralph Ellison campus. Ellison is another charter, like Shabazz, with revolving-door leadership. Its test scores are abysmal. Only 15 percent of the school’s students met state standards on the Prairie State Achievement Examination in 2012 compared to the CPS average of 31.5 percent. Who could blame public school parents and teachers on the south and west side, for asking, why is this school allowed to stay open while BBB is closing ours?

Chicago International, the district's biggest charter operator, has a contract with CPS, but the school is actually run by Civitas Schools, a for-profit management company. CI and Civitas have been the most ruthless when it comes to keeping their teachers from unionizing. They have even gone so far as to claim that their charters are not public schools, since Civitas signs the teachers pay checks, and therefore aren't subject to ILRB rules governing union elections.

Last week, Baltimore's school board revoked the charter of Civitas Middle/High School.


  1. In California, the charter lobbying operation, California Charter Schools Association*, used to scream and threaten and fight bloody battles at any effort to close a charter school, no matter how disastrous the school was. Then it quietly but drastically changed its tune and now makes a big show of espousing closing troubled charter schools. That previous policy was biting it.

    So now the CCSA has certain disfavored charter schools that it picks to throw under the bus, calling with great big dramatic public whoop-de-do for shutting them down. It's all for show.

    *It formerly had a different name. I point that out scrupulously because the charter folks will pounce and "gotcha!" as part of their BS -- nyah nyah, the CCSA didn't even exist then, so we've discredited you.

  2. You're right, Caroline. Closing an occasional charter (I think they've closed 4 or 5 here in the past decade) for them is an efficiency matter. Like Starbucks closing an unprofitable coffee store and opening up another one a few blocks away. For the big operators, it's also a cost saving. And for the system as a whole, it can be a way of getting rid of the small mom-and-pop, teacher-led charters and having the field taken over by a few large, resource-rich, politically-connected chain of charters.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.