With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Charter School Love

Have you heard? It's National Charter School Week. It's a time to "spread charter school love" and enter the Charter School Week Essay Contest. I think you get one of these ties if you win. Here's my entry. 

It's the time of year I start getting emails from Riya V. Anandwala from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, complaining that the cities aren't building charters fast enough to meet all the pent up demand. She may be right. Charter school ad-men, using public funds and with massive help from Arne Duncan's Dept. of Ed, have created a vibrant market.

Of course, creating a market and serving the public good are not the same thing. Take Apple Corp. for example. They have created quite a market for the Apple Watch, an $84defective plastic bauble that they're selling to a willing public for up to $17,000 (Sport Edition) and can't make them fast enough.

It's hard to argue against choice. Right? In our wonderful country, everyone has the choice to buy the Sport Edition (or not), chunky/smooth, or to stay at the Drake on Boul Mich or sleep on a bench in the park across the street.

The problem is, that when the bill comes due, supposedly "public" charter schools can be taken away, repossessed if you will, and the occupants thrown out in the street, if the "owners" don't get their check in the mail. That's exactly what owner UNO, the largest charter operator in Chicago, is threatening if THEIR charters don't come across with more than $3 million in "management fees" to the parent company. They say they will evict thousands of Latino students and parents for non-payment. I suppose that will create an even greater market.

Chicago is not alone. The same kind of thing is going on in D.C. where privatization and unbridled charter expansion became a thing under former Supt. Michelle Rhee.

Here's the latest:
Charter school founder Kent Amos and his management company have agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged he used the company to divert taxpayer funds from the school for his personal gain.
Last summer, the D.C. attorney general alleged that millions of dollars had been diverted from the school for personal gain, contrary to the school’s nonprofit status. Amos and his attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.
Since 2004, the school paid more than $14 million to the company, according to court records. Management fees rose while costs declined, because the company employed fewer people and duties were shifting to school employees, records show.
Chicago still #1... Along with Riya's missives, comes news that Chicago -- a charter school Mecca under Mayors Daley and Emanuel -- has once again been awarded the title of the nation's most segregated city. Congratulations Rahm! But he would probably admit, he couldn't have achieved all that without the massive closing of neighborhood schools and his market-driven expansion of privately-run charters.

It may be hard to believe, but Chicago charter schools are even more racially segregated than the neighborhood schools they were intended to replace.

The Sun-Times reports:
Charter schools have worsened school segregation in Chicago and overall have not made the city’s school system stronger  — but might have weakened it, according to a new report by urban planners.
Looking at school data for 2012-13, the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School said that when it considered student demographics and admission criteria, it found that charters lagged behind traditional public schools in such major factors as reading and math scores, reading and math growth and graduation rates.
I wonder why Riya failed to mention that?


  1. Oh...I thought it was National Teacher Appreciation Week. That, too.

    1. Yes, Teacher Appreciation Week. Feel the love?

  2. Here in Los Angeles we just had astonishing revelations of widespread malfeasance, and perhaps criminal self-dealing by the PUC charter corporation run by LAUSD board candidate Ref Rodriguez. However, his scandals pale in comparison to the UNO situation going on in Chicago. There's almost a competition between the charter crowd to see who can be the most corrupt and greedy. I think after seeing Mike Piscal, Ben Chavis, and Michelle Rhee get away with multiple felonies, the industry as a whole saw this like the sub-prime mortgage folks saw the pre-2008-crash housing bubble. It's a free-for-all of charter school graft and crimes, and at the end of the day our ruling class will declare vouchers as the "solution" to the problem they created with charters.

  3. You're right Robert. I've been following the PUC scandal and Rodriquez and Garcia do rival Rangel and UNO in the corrupt charter race to the bottom. Ugh.


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