Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Hard to understand CTU's vitriol on these charter closings.

Arne Duncan with K12 Inc. founder William Bennett
I'm having a difficult time making sense out of CTU policy statements lately. Yesterday, the union leadership came out with a blistering, overheated attack on CPS leaders. Why? Because CPS recommended the closing of two privately-run charter schools for poor academic performance and financial mismanagement.

The two schools are Chicago Virtual Charter School (CVCS) and Frazier Preparatory Academy Charter School. Both schools opened as part of Renaissance 2010, a failed initiative of former Mayor Daley’s schools chief, Arne Duncan. The initiative called for the opening of 100 new schools by 2010 amid the closure of dozens of schools the district said were "underperforming."

Private charter school operators moved in like vultures, promising that their non-union schools would outperform neighborhood schools. It turned out to be a lie. The best of the charters did just about the same as the schools they were replacing. The worst either kept getting their charters renewed with little oversight, or were closed, either for poor performance, financial mismanagement or put on probation and given a few years to improve. Several more went out of business of their own volition, as with any failed business venture.

CTU leaders have responded to the recommendation with vitriol, calling it "racist and irresponsible."

I have been an outspoken opponent of public school closings, especially the mass school closings in the black community, under Rahm Emanuel's regime, closings that disrupted the lives and learning of thousands of CPS students and drove hundreds of families out of Chicago. But that doesn't mean that no charter school should ever be closed, no matter how poorly it serves its students and their families or how corrupt they are. I know very little about Frazier, except that it has been on academic probation for several years and has failed to meet the standards set by its own operators.

According to the Tribune: 
At Frazier Prep, a K-8 school in Lawndale, CPS further cited a failure to meet a contractual requirement to implement a successful remediation plan and improve the school enough to get it off the academic warning list. Students in the community have higher-quality options, according to CPS.
 Since 2015, the Chicago Board of Education has used a “quality policy” to review charter schools. In accordance with that policy, school officials conducted “comprehensive performance reviews” and said they found that Chicago Virtual and Frazier Prep were failing to provide a high-quality education to students.
I generally mistrust evidence of "low performance" based solely or mainly on test scores. But I'd leave this decision to CPS in consultation with the school community.

CPS has assured the community that if the Chicago School Board approves the closures, CPS will provide families of current students with transition support "to help them identify a new higher-performing school that best meets their educational needs and priorities."

But we heard that before from Rahm. He lied. So far, Lori Lightfoot has shown that she's not Rahm 2.0. CTU President Jesse Sharkey told me as much on Hitting Left, last Friday.

But I do know something about Chicago Virtual Charter, a subsidiary of K12 Inc., the worst of the worst when it comes to privatization and plunder of American public education. The largest of the virtual charter chains, K12 Inc. in particular, has been a sewer of corruption since it was founded by Ronald Reagan's Ed Sec. William Bennett. The company was forced to remove Bennett as chairman of its directors following a series of racist remarks and gambling scandals which threatened the company's marketability.

K12 Inc. has been under investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, which has been looking into K12's involvement in a project that received an improper multimillion-dollar grant from the Department of Education during Bennett's tenure at the firm. MEANWHILE...
A K12 Inc. company database that included information for 19,000 students was available for anyone with an internet connection to see for at least a week, according to a report from Comparitech, which describes itself as a pro-consumer organization that offers security services. -- Digital Education
Trump's Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos touts online learning and cyber charter schools as a viable alternative to public schools. But her support for these virtual schools and the private companies that run them may have more to do with her and her husband's investment portfolio than with any positive results for students. Her husband invested in virtual school powerhouse K12 Inc. before she became secretary.

According to The Nation:
K12 Inc.’s lobbyists helped author model legislation to develop sweeping voucher laws through the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that provides state lawmakers with template legislation.
K12, Inc. initially wanted to open a full-time virtual school in Chicago, but Illinois law prohibited full-time online learning. To comply with the policy, K12, Inc. compromised by adding a mandatory, on-campus attendance requirement and thus the CVCS was born.

It's a school that never should have been opened in this city. In fact, back in 2006, the CTU filed a suit intended to stop state and city payments to the Chicago Virtual Charter School. The union sued the charter school operator, the Chicago Board of Education, which approved the school as part of its Renaissance 2010 reforms, and the Illinois State Board of Education, which gave final approval for the charter to open.

So the question is, why the sharp attack by CTU leaders, who called the CPS recommendation to close CVCS racist and irresponsible? I can understand their making a case against the closing of any neighborhood school. But CVCS was not that. Whether to close Frazier is a question worthy of community debate.

I hope the charges of "racism" against CPS leadership and the mayor's appointed school board isn't just a continuation of the negativity directed at the mayor and the board, stemming from the election and the school strike. But I see no other basis for it.

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