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Charlotte Thomson IserbytThe Dissolution of Local Representative Government Through Charter Schools
Charter Horror Storiessnowman

ESEA Reauthorization bill and charters, see HERE No Way ESEA!

ESEA Reau­tho­riza­tion bill and char­ters, see HERE
No Way ESEA!

It is the best kept secret in the coun­try. The most durable myth — that char­ter schools are “local con­trol” — per­pet­u­at­ed by BOTH the Polit­i­cal Right and the Polit­i­cal Left. In fact char­ters elim­i­nate local con­trol. This is an agen­da that has been grad­u­al­ly increas­ing in scope and sever­i­ty, not unlike a snow­ball rolling down­hill gath­er­ing momentum.

In an arti­cle by Dale Ellis, Spe­cial to the Arkansas News Bureau, “State Edu­ca­tion Board votes to take over Lit­tle Rock School Dis­trict,” Jan. 28, 2015, we learn the truth about the scope of the edu­ca­tion reform agenda.

Little RockLITTLE ROCK — A sharply divid­ed state Board of Edu­ca­tion vot­ed 5–4 Wednes­day to take imme­di­ate con­trol of the Lit­tle Rock School District.

The move dis­bands the school board and places Dex­ter Sug­gs, the cur­rent super­in­ten­dent, in an inter­im role and under the author­i­ty of state Edu­ca­tion Com­mis­sion­er Tony Wood. Addi­tion­al­ly, the mea­sure calls for cre­ation of a citizen’s advi­so­ry coun­cil to give input regard­ing needs and changes in the dis­trict.[empha­sis added] 

Note that the cit­i­zen advi­so­ry coun­cil is appoint­ed, NOT ELECTED. This is where par­ents and local cit­i­zens lose con­trol of the process, and their vote. This aagen­da often starts with defin­ing a dis­trict as “aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly dis­tressed.” The state then jumps in to seize con­trol. The arti­cle continues:

When they were in year sev­en or year eight this board grant­ed the Lit­tle Rock School Dis­trict the abil­i­ty to turn it from a tra­di­tion­al school to a con­ver­sion char­ter,” she said. “It’s 2015 and they’re still on the list.” [empha­sis added] 

Ohio’s “Gov. John Kasich wants to add teeth to char­ter school over­sight rules and let char­ters seek local tax levies,” the Cleve­land Plain Deal­er wrote on Feb­ru­ary 1, 2015 in an arti­cle by Patrick O’Don­nell. Notice how this erad­i­cates local con­trol. Fol­low the mon­ey trail:

KasichCOLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich’s bud­get pro­pos­al Mon­day would offer char­ter schools in Ohio two new poten­tial fund­ing sources — a $25 mil­lion facil­i­ties fund and the abil­i­ty to seek local tax levies from vot­ers — while putting a greater focus on char­ter school spon­sors, or autho­riz­ers, as a way to improve school quality.…

Char­ter schools are pub­lic schools open to all stu­dents. They receive most of their fund­ing from your state tax bills. But they are pri­vate­ly-run, and their records across the state have been spot­ty, with some stand­ing out as excel­lent choic­es for stu­dents and oth­ers lag­ging far behind tra­di­tion­al dis­trict schools. [empha­sis added] 

The his­to­ry of char­ters is impor­tant to know. This char­ter fraud as been going on for sev­er­al decades. USA TODAY report­ed in its Octo­ber 12, 1998 issue that

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—The Utah School Boards Asso­ci­a­tion has asked a judge to declare the ’98 Char­ter Schools Act uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. Char­ter schools are fund­ed with pub­lic edu­ca­tion mon­ey, but are exempt from many of the restric­tions on pub­lic schools. The law­suit alleges local school boards have con­trol over schools in their bound­aries, and that by reach­ing with­in those bound­aries, the state is cre­at­ing a new school dis­trict with­out a pub­lic vote. [empha­sis added, from my book p. 422] 

Hats off to the Utah School Boards Asso­ci­a­tion who were act­ing alive and aware back in 1998. When edu­ca­tion activists/researchers in their many speech­es across the nation referred to char­ter schools as “tax­a­tion with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion” the silence from con­ser­v­a­tive audi­ences was “deaf­en­ing.”

No won­der I have often called school choice “Amer­i­ca’s Tro­jan Horse.” From the 3‑part arti­cle series on my web­site titled “The Choice Cha­rade,” comes the fol­low­ing infor­ma­tion from the year 2003:

The Inten­tion­al Design FlawTrojan Horse drawing

From the ear­li­est days of edu­ca­tion reform plans, char­ter schools and oth­er “choice” exper­i­ments were designed to be unen­cum­bered by the restraints placed on pub­lic schools so that they could be free to “inno­vate.” In order to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment where this cre­ativ­i­ty would not be sti­fled, reform­ers insist­ed on “waivers.” The Amer­i­ca 2000 [Read “Lamar the Czar” post for his role in this, ed.] plan states:

We expect that the Design Teams will begin by eras­ing all con­ven­tion­al assump­tions and con­straints about school­ing: the sched­ule (and cal­en­dar), cur­ricu­lum, class size, the pace of learn­ing, teacher/student ratios, adult roles, teacher recruit­ment, health and nutri­tion, dis­ci­pline, staff devel­op­ment, orga­ni­za­tion­al and man­age­ment struc­tures, resource allo­ca­tion, stu­dents-as-tutors, the nature of instruc­tion­al mate­ri­als and much more (p. 30)

Waivers exclude char­ter schools from a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of state and local reg­u­la­tions, includ­ing many of those guar­an­tee­ing the safe­ty of stu­dents. For exam­ple: waivers can grant char­ter oper­a­tors the right to retain con­trol over their own oper­a­tions; elim­i­nate enroll­ment caps, ease restric­tions on employ­ee qual­i­fi­ca­tions; and exempt char­ters from state col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing laws. The the­o­ry behind waivers for char­ters holds that “free mar­ket” com­pe­ti­tion would dri­ve char­ters to the straight and nar­row course and keep oper­a­tors above board. This, of course, ignores that fact that edu­ca­tion reform-style “choice” is not based on true “free mar­ket” economics.

Waivers mean that char­ter schools do not have to jump through as many bureau­crat­ic hur­dles. But waivers also mean that there are few safe­ty nets in place when things go wrong. When char­ters are mis­man­aged, par­ents have dis­cov­ered that they haven’t many options for com­plaint, and lit­tle pow­er to rec­ti­fy the sit­u­a­tion. Should trou­bles devel­op, there are few, if any, avenues for parental appeal. Char­ter school oper­a­tors, even though they are on the gov­ern­ment dole, have been grant­ed the unbri­dled author­i­ty to make deci­sions direct­ly impact­ing stu­dents — what grades to offer, the num­ber of chil­dren to enroll, what text­books to pur­chase, whom to hire, where to locate, the con­di­tion of the facil­i­ties, etc. All they have to guar­an­tee is accept­able per­for­mance on the des­ig­nat­ed assess­ment test.

Char­ter schools often expe­ri­ence grow­ing pains that cre­ate dan­gers for chil­dren. Accord­ing to an arti­cle in the Akron Bea­con-Jour­nal a Colum­bus, Ohio, boot­camp style char­ter opened with­out a work­ing tele­phone in the facil­i­ty and with por­tapot­ties in the park­ing lot. The police were called 12 times in sev­er­al months for dis­rup­tions, includ­ing one charge of sex­u­al assault. In mid-Octo­ber 2002, “350 employ­ees of char­ter schools did not have crim­i­nal back­ground checks com­plet­ed, and 36 had not even applied to the Ohio Bureau of Crim­i­nal Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion & Inves­ti­ga­tion. A month lat­er, only two schools were in full com­pli­ance.” (“Par­ents have free­dom of choice, but not free­dom of infor­ma­tion” by Doug Oplinger and Den­nis J. Willard, Akron Bea­con-Jour­nal, 12/12/99.)

In anoth­er issue exam­ined by the Akron Bea­con-Jour­nal, a chain of Ohio char­ter schools tar­get­ing chil­dren with Atten­tion Deficit Dis­or­der (ADD) for enroll­ment was audit­ed by the state for re-label­ing stu­dents who enrolled with des­ig­na­tions which includ­ed “severe­ly emo­tion­al­ly dis­turbed.” Accord­ing to a for­mer teacher, the re-label­ing was per­formed by school staff mem­bers who “were untrained to eval­u­ate men­tal capa­bil­i­ties… [with] no par­ents present.”

The school gets about $13,000 in state and local funds for each stu­dent clas­si­fied with a spe­cial edu­ca­tion prob­lem – near­ly dou­ble the mon­ey it would get for edu­cat­ing a reg­u­lar stu­dent or one with ADD.

And near­ly every stu­dent at Sum­mit Acad­e­my Akron is report­ed to have a spe­cial edu­ca­tion prob­lem, even though most of them didn’t car­ry that des­ig­na­tion when they were enrolled in pub­lic schools.

Now, alle­ga­tions that Sum­mit Acad­e­my has inten­tion­al­ly misiden­ti­fied stu­dents with spe­cial edu­ca­tion dis­abil­i­ties have drawn unsched­uled audits from the Ohio Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion at two schools. And Akron Pub­lic Schools offi­cials have asked state Audi­tor Jim Petro to review Sum­mit Academy’s spe­cial edu­ca­tion records.

In ques­tion is whether mil­lions in tax dol­lars that flow into the eight Sum­mit Acad­e­my char­ter schools in Ohio owned by Peter DiMez­za of Akron have been prop­er­ly obtained and used. (“School fund sham?” by Regi­nald Fields, Akron Bea­con-Jour­nal, 5/12/02)

The 3-Legged Stool of School "Choice"

The 3‑Legged Stool of School “Choice”

Bruno Man­no, a well-known “choice” pro­po­nent, admits to one charter’s “account­ing irreg­u­lar­i­ties, gov­er­nance tiffs, and over­re­port­ing of enrollments”:

The new D.C. school board moved dur­ing the 2001-’02 school year to close three oth­er schools char­tered by the pre­vi­ous board. They had an array of prob­lems: over­crowd­ed class­rooms with lit­tle ven­ti­la­tion, high absen­tee rates, few text­books and oth­er instruc­tion­al mate­ri­als, abysmal aca­d­e­m­ic results, and fail­ure to file finan­cial reports and to offer the adver­tised cours­es. (“Yel­low Flag,” Edu­ca­tion Next, Win­ter 2003)

Bruno Manno’s solu­tion to the cri­sis cit­ed above? The Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Char­ter School Autho­riz­ers, who will press for “results” and “account­abil­i­ty” in “choice.” “Results” and “account­abil­i­ty” are sacred to edu­ca­tion reform ide­ol­o­gy. It doesn’t mat­ter how the results are obtained. It just mat­ters that they are obtained.

Waivers are a cri­sis wait­ing to hap­pen. This is by design. Trou­bles will erupt as a nat­ur­al result of this inten­tion­al design flaw. It only takes one big head­line dis­as­ter for a nation­al push to insti­tu­tion­al­ize edu­ca­tion reform man­dates on all “choice” options, includ­ing the last bas­tions of tru­ly free choice: home­schools and pri­vate schools. This is why it is so imper­a­tive for “choice” reform­ers to broad­en the def­i­n­i­tion of home­school­ing. Once there is a well-pub­li­cized calami­ty – say, for exam­ple, with a cyber­char­ter that super­fi­cial­ly resem­bles home­school­ing — the reform­ers ful­ly intend to start the drum­beat for more oner­ous gov­ern­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, over­sight, and intru­sions on all choice, not just pub­lic “choice.” No child shall be left behind.snowball effectRelat­ed Posts:
The Delib­er­ate Dumb­ing Down of the Village
Marc Tuck­er’s Turkeys