Monday, October 20, 2014

The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies - Jeff Bryant in Salon

Charter school advocates say it's all about choice - except when it isn't - as when 90% of the people in a school district say NO to charters but are force fed then anyway.
Fraud, financial mismanagement, lousy results: Reports highlight awful charter schools and people are catching on---
After Katrina, as NPR recently reported, “an ad hoc coalition of elected leaders and nationally known charter advocates formed,” and in “a series of quick decisions,” all school employees were fired and the vast majority of the city’s schools were handed over to a state entity called the “Recovery School District” which is governed by unelected officials. Only a “few elite schools were … allowed to maintain their selective admissions.” In other words, any bargaining that was done was behind closed doors and at tables where most of the people who were being affected had no seat..... Jeff Bryant, Salon
This article by Jeff (who I had the pleasure of meeting in the press section at the AFT convention this past summer) was posted at Salon on Oct 2, 2014 and I may have even posted it before but it's lurking on one of my tabs so here are a few excerpts.
Last week when former President Bill Clinton meandered onto the topic of charter schools, he mentioned something about an “original bargain” that charters were, according to the reporter for The Huffington Post, “supposed to do a better job of educating students.”

A writer at Salon called the remark “stunning” because it brought to light the fact that the overwhelming majority of charter schools do no better than traditional public schools. Yet, as the Huffington reporter reminded us, charter schools are rarely shuttered for low academic performance.

But what’s most remarkable about what Clinton said is how little his statement resembles the truth about how charters have become a reality in so many American communities.

In a real “bargaining process,” those who bear the consequences of the deal have some say-so on the terms, the deal-makers have to represent themselves honestly (or the deal is off and the negotiating ends), and there are measures in place to ensure everyone involved is held accountable after the deal has been struck.
But that’s not what’s happening in the great charter industry rollout transpiring across the country. Rather than a negotiation over terms, charters are being imposed on communities – either by legislative fiat or well-engineered public policy campaigns. Many charter school operators keep their practices hidden or have been found to be blatantly corrupt. And no one seems to be doing anything to ensure real accountability for these rapidly expanding school operations.

Instead of the “bargain” political leaders may have thought they struck with seemingly well-intentioned charter entrepreneurs, what has transpired instead looks more like a raw deal for millions of students, their families, and their communities. And what political leaders ought to be doing – rather than spouting unfounded platitudes, as Clinton did, about “what works” – is putting the brakes on a deal gone bad, ensuring those most affected by charter school rollouts are brought to the bargaining table, and completely renegotiating the terms for governing these schools.

Charter Schools As Takeover Operations
The “100 percent charter schools” education system in New Orleans that Clinton praised was never presented to the citizens of New Orleans in a negotiation. It was surreptitiously engineered.
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Further, any evidence of the improvement of the educational attainment of students in the New Orleans all-charter system is obtainable only by “jukin the stats” or, as the NPR reporter put it, through “a distortion of the curriculum and teaching practice.” As Andrea Gabor wrote for Newsweek a year ago, “the current reality of the city’s schools should be enough to give pause to even the most passionate charter supporters.”
Jeff goes into detail on the York City charter takeover and there's lots more meat in his report, so read it all.

He closes with the charter escape from accountability question:
Unsurprisingly, the report got an immediate response from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, arguing against any regulation on charters. That organization’s response cites “remarkable results” as an excuse for why charters should continue to be allowed to skirt public accountability despite the fact they get public money. However, whenever there is close scrutiny of the remarkable results the charter industry loves to crow about, the facts are those results really aren’t there.
Charter Accountability Now
Of course, now that the truth about charter schools is starting to leak out of the corners of the “black box” the industry uses to protect itself, the charter school PR machine is doing everything it can to cover up reality.
Beginning with the new school year, the charter school industry has been on a publicity terror with a national campaign claiming to tell “The Truth About Charters” and high dollar promotional appeals in Philadelphia and New York City.

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