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Charter Corruption

October 30, 2012

Diane Ravitch is relentless in her reporting of corruption in charter schools… and while the posts seem redundant they illustrate a reality that many pro-private sector apologists gloss over: if you are motivated by money you will often do whatever it takes to make that money…. and if you are motivated by greed, you will feel free to steal so long as it is within the law. As noted in earlier posts, many political conservatives have eyed public education as a potential cash cow for decades, recognizing the potential to turn a large profit by opening on-line schools in a de-regulated market. (See this link for one example)

So it’s not surprising to find that out of state billionaires are donating millions of dollars to support an initiative to expand charter schools in Georgia… or that a multi-millionaire who operates a charter school in Chester PA (and is the largest individual donor to the Governor) is claiming that the financial records for that school are not a public record while he builds a  20,000 square foot mansion in FLA to go with his 30,000 square foot mansion in PA… or that the individuals who are making the largest contributions to pro-for-profit-charter schools are also touting investments in charter schools… or that the Wall Street Journal touts for-profit charters as the next big thing while billionaires make sure it IS the next big thing by investing as much as $630,000 in a local school board election in Colorado…. or that a “miracle charter” school in LA turned out to be a cheating charter school

I try not to be a paranoid alarmist… and Diane Ravitch is hardly a socialist left-wing radical… but I am old enough to recall Woodward and Bernstein’s mantra: follow the money. And the money that is flowing into Board elections from the private sector is not being invested based on the idealistic notion of providing an equal opportunity for all children to experience success in school… it is being invested to expand the opportunity for making a profit in operating schools. If standardized tests are the metric for school success, it is relatively easy to maintain the level of performance in a school that operates at less than half the cost… especially if those pesky regulations are eliminated… you know, the regulations that require students to attend classes with other children or participate in PE, Art, and Music….

As noted in an earlier post, both Presidential candidates and most Governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, seem OK with the privatization movement. After all, it saves money for them and doesn’t alter the student performance as measured by test scores— so where’s the problem? The problem is that we have equated school success with standardized test scores and refused to acknowledge the effects of poverty on children and, in doing so, we have limited the scope of schooling and limited the opportunities for economic advancement.

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