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More Evidence of Charter Schools Slow Steady Strangulation…

May 30, 2016

Education Opportunity Network blogger Jeff Bryant profiles two States recent experience with charter schools and how they have gained an extreme advantage over public schools in their respective states: Florida and— you guessed it— Pennsylvania!

In FL a charter management firm ““disappeared from the scene” after being told by the local school board to explain financial and operational problems.” When the local board was unable to determine what happened to hundreds of thousands of dollars given to the charter operator, they did what any responsible board would do: they decided to close the schools that charter management firm operated. The parents and local legislators were upset… and because the State laws favor the charter operators over local taxpayers and the legislators have convinced parents that any public schools are inferior to any charter schools local school boards have their hands tied.

PA school boards encounter the same kinds of problems. When the school board in Allentown decided to issue a charter to a businessman who used a consulting firm who pled guilty to charges of “conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery offenses and tax evasion” they were cited by the auditor for failing to disclose the arrangements they made with the businessman to mitigate his opening of additional charters. Bryant describes the Catch 22 situation as follows:

So if Allentown had tried to block the new charters from opening, the state or the court would likely have overruled the district, and the community would be stuck with the two schools anyway, but without the benefit of the advertising money and the pledge to open no more new charters. If the district had given approval but then insisted on making its agreement with the developer public, the developer would have likely backed out.

Either way, the district loses.

In his closing paragraphs Bryant describes the grim future for students as a result of the way decisions about the expansion of charter schools in these– and far too many other states— are made:

Notice also that in both situations, the subject of education is by and large overlooked. Indeed, concerns for teaching and learning never came up because there was too much other flack in the air – the public perceptions of the schools, financial matters involving public money, political deals, and the needs of parents to have a guaranteed school seat for their children.

Regardless of how you feel about charter schools, because of the way they’ve been forged in the crucible of politics, they’ve become much more political beings than they are institutions of education. Simple mandates to expand these schools, without any attention to these political consequences, will make matters worse.

In the comment I left, I noted that this is as much a problem of governance at the State level as it is at the local level:

And don’t overlook the root cause of this: the politicization of governance at the State level. State-after-state has bought into the notion that the Governor should appoint either the State Board or the State Superintendent “because the state spends so much $$$ on schools”… once these appointments are controlled by the governor he or she can appoint people who will do their bidding… and their bidding is deregulated privatization in states led by pro-business Republican governors…

Repeat after me: schools are not a business… schools are not a business… schools are not a business…

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