Tag: Charter Schools

Segregation is the Goal of Most Educational “Reform”

The very rich are setting up private “learning pods” for their children with tutors.

Some have suggested that this might lead to resegregation of schools.

What is left unstated is that educational reform in the United States over the past few decades has largely been about resegregating schools.

The charter school movement is about keeping people of color, and those with disabilities, out of the new educational institutions, and vouchers are even more explicit about their agenda.  (Segregation academy lite)

Not a Good Look

Remember “Success Academy”?

It’s an under-performing politically connected charter school that overpays its CEO (and former city council member) Eva Moskowitz.

It also turns out that, at least according to its now former spokesweasel, it’s also racist and abusive as a matter of policy:

A spokesperson for New York City’s largest charter network resigned in protest, stating she can no longer defend Success Academy’s “racist and abusive practices” that are “detrimental to the emotional well being” of its students.

“I am resigning because I can no longer continue working for an organization that allows and rewards the systemic abuse of students, parents, and employees,” wrote Liz Baker, a Success spokesperson, in a resignation letter Tuesday.

“As the organization’s press associate, I no longer wish to defend Success Academy in response to any media inquiries,” she continued in the letter, which was obtained by Chalkbeat. “I do not believe that Success Academy has scholars’ best interests at heart, and I strongly believe that attending any Success Academy school is detrimental to the emotional wellbeing of children.”

The stunning resignation letter comes as the network has been besieged by complaints from employees, parents, and students about a culture that some argue is racist. Baker, who has worked at Success for about a year and four months, is one of the network’s most visible employees and was responsible for responding to reporters’ questions about the network.


Baker’s resignation is likely to draw further attention to turmoil at the network, which has boiled over in recent weeks. In largely anonymous social media posts, people connected to the network surfaced complaints about calling 911 on students with behavior problems, policing Black students’ hair by banning certain headwraps, and a culture where white educators are comfortable dressing down parents of color for minor issues like arriving late to pick up their children.

Half of the teachers and principals at Success are white, 27% are Black, 13% are Hispanic, and 5% are Asian. Meanwhile, 83% of the network’s roughly 18,000 students are Black or Hispanic and most come from low-income families.

Remember Success Academy is a charter school, which means that it is publicly funded, and Eva Moskowitz makes $890,000.00 a year with 17,000 students, as compared to the $345,000.00 received by New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who serves 1,100,000 students.

Money well spent, huh?

Not a Surprise

It turns out that Harlem Success Academy, featured prominently in the pro-charter film Waiting for Superman is lying about all of its students going to college.

Instead, they are kicking out students before they fail, a classic scam of the charter school types:

98 Success Academy Students Accepted To College

But is that a lot?

The New York Post seems to think so. Three times in a recent article they suggest that this is 100% of the seniors. The title “Entire Success Academy senior class accepted to college” certainly implies it. The first sentence “Every senior in one of the city’s largest charter school networks has been accepted to a college this year, officials said.” reinforces it. And the second sentence “All 98 of the 12th graders at Success Academy’s HS of the Liberal Arts in Manhattan earned admission to universities — including Yale, Penn, Duke and Georgetown.” further drives the point home.

But a responsible reporter would ask the logical follow up question. Is 98 really all the students in the class of 2020?

The answer is, “No”.

There were 16 more students 6 months ago, and there were 48 fewer students the year before, and this is a school which purports to take the students from elementary school through  graduation from high school.

They cull the weak to juice their numbers.

They Should Have Blown up Her Damn Yacht

Have have you heard of Betsy Devos’ latest action as Secretary of the Department of “Education”?

She overruled the experts at her department, and forced through a massive grant to a corrupt charter school chain:

A U.S. congressman is demanding answers from the U.S. Education Department, alleging department employees complained to his office about political interference in the awarding of a multimillion-dollar federal grant to the controversial IDEA charter school network.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) sent a letter to the department Monday asking for details and records related to the awarding of the grant. In an interview, Pocan said “three whistleblowers” told his office that professional staff evaluating applications for 2020 grants from the federal Charter School Program had rejected IDEA for new funding, deeming the network “high risk” because of how IDEA leaders previously spent federal funds.

But according to these whistleblowers, Pocan said, professional staff was overruled by political appointees who ordered the funding be awarded to IDEA. The identities of the whistleblowers were not revealed to The Post, nor were the names of the political appointees.


Earlier this month, the Education Department announced it was awarding millions of dollars in new grants to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. IDEA was the top recipient, receiving $72 million over five years. IDEA had previously received more than $200 million in funding over the past decade through the program.

But the network has been dogged by controversy. This month, IDEA chief executive Tom Torkelson resigned after publicly apologizing for “really dumb and unhelpful” plans that included leasing a private jet for millions of dollars and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on San Antonio Spurs tickets. The Texas Monitor reported last month that Torkelson had flown on a private jet to Tampa to meet with DeVos to discuss “education philanthropy,” records show. The Monitor reported he was the only passenger on a jet that can hold nine people.

Last November, the Education Department’s inspector general criticized IDEA in an audit of data IDEA included in annual performance reviews it submitted to the federal government, required as part of the grants received from the federal Charter Schools Program.

Betsy DeVos goal is the defunding public schools, and that means shoveling money out to the charter schools, no matter how incompetent or corrupt.

A Good Idea

This is an unalloyed good:

  • It makes it more difficult for bad actors, and there are lots of them in the school privatization ecosystem, to loot their schools.
  • It adds a level of accountability to administrators.
  • Since the boards are publicly elected, it means that he proceedings, AND THE FINANCES of Charters must be made available under California’s tough Freedom of Information act.

Needless to say the Wall Street looters making money off of this will scream bloody murder:

Taking aim at the majority of charter schools in the state, the California Democratic Party has included language in its platform declaring that these schools should be overseen by publicly elected boards, in contrast to the self-appointed boards that run most of them.

The new language, adopted at the state party’s annual convention in Long Beach over the weekend, was promoted by the 120,000-member California Federation of Teachers and strengthens an already strongly worded section of the California Democratic Party’s platform on charter schools.

It is especially significant because it comes from a state with by far the largest number of charter schools in the nation, enrolling just over 10 percent of all the state’s public school students. It also underscored the ongoing divisions within the party over charter schools, which have become about one of the most contentious issues on the nation’s education reform agenda.


He said that according to the California education code, charter schools are public schools and therefore “should reflect the communities where we work and serve.” “One of the best ways to reflect the community and be accountable to the community is to be elected by the community,” he said.


The new language also calls for charter schools to adopt “fair labor practices” and respect labor “neutrality.” That means that if charter school teachers and staff want to join a union, school administrators should stay “neutral” and refrain from either supporting or opposing the unionizing effort.

This may be an even bigger deal.  At the core of many school privatization efforts is an attempt to destroy, or at least emasculate, teachers’ unions.

As a result of a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown a year ago, California has already banned for-profit charter schools,

I missed this.  It’s a good start.

The California Charter Schools Association, which represents most charter schools in the state and supported the for-profit ban, pushed back against the tougher language in the Democratic Party platform.

Mandy Rice-Davies Applies (MRDA), “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?”


But coming just weeks after the California Legislature approved major legislation endorsed by Gov. Gavin Newsom revising the state’s 25-year-old charter school law, it’s unlikely that there’s much appetite in Sacramento for making further major changes, at least in the near term.

There is no reason that charters cannot be subject to the same accountability and same disclosure requirements, as public schools. 

Absent this, they turn into a morass of corruption and self dealing.

H/T Diane Ravitch.

This Is the Rule, Not the Exception for Charter Schools

Who could have imagined that shoveling taxpayer money to opaque institutions would result in an explosion of fraud and self-dealing:

A state investigator’s search warrant filed in court Tuesday seeks evidence of alleged embezzlement of state funds and obtaining money under false pretenses at Epic Charter Schools, including through the use of “ghost students” who receive no actual instruction at the school.

Epic and and its two co-founders, David Chaney and Ben Harris, are the subject of a state law enforcement investigation, according to the seven-page affidavit and warrant filed in Oklahoma County District Court.

The agent reviewed bank statements and found Chaney and Harris split school profits of at least $10 million between 2013 and 2018, the affidavit states. Epic is a publicly funded charter school that is managed by a for-profit company, Epic Youth Services, which is owned by Chaney and Harris. The filing of the warrant was first reported by The Oklahoman.


Epic is accused of receiving state funding for “ghost students” as early as 2014. Those students were homeschooled and attended private and sectarian schools and enrolled in Epic to receive an $800 “learning fund” without receiving instruction from Epic, the affidavit states. Epic teachers dubbed those students “members of the $800.00 club.” The learning fund is provided to all Epic students and can be spent on curriculum, technology and extracurricular activities.


When asked whether the allegations would affect the handling of Epic’s 2019-20 funding, Education Department spokeswoman Steffie Corcoran said they will consult with law enforcement to determine the next appropriate steps. Epic’s state funding for next year is estimated at $120 million.

So basically, they were paying parents to engage in phony registrations.

Charter schools’ records are private, their finances are not available for public review, and financial entanglements are secret.

It is a recipe for fraud.

A Much Needed Regulation

This is important, because excluding the disabled, and other students who need extra help, is the “Secret Sauce” of charter schools.

It allows them to create the appearance of exceptional performance on the cheap:

State law already requires that a charter school admit any student who applies. In his May budget revision, Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to tighten the language banning discrimination in charter school enrollment, particularly to protect students with disabilities and students with poor grades who want to attend charter schools.


In return for receiving public funding, charter schools must have open admissions and hold a lottery when there are more applicants than spaces. School districts have complained that some of the state’s 1,300-plus charter schools have discouraged families with academically struggling students and special education students with high-cost needs from signing up. Others counsel students who are struggling academically to leave school mid-year to boost schoolwide test scores, districts say.


Charges that charter schools deliberately select top student applicants have been largely anecdotal, which is why Newsom is proposing a uniform complaint policy that allows parents to file a grievance if they believe they were discriminated against. He also wants to explore using state Smarter Balanced testing and other data to identify enrollment disparities “that may warrant inquiry and intervention,” his budget stated.

Three years ago, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the public interest law firm Public Advocates released a report that found that about a fifth of charter schools had admissions policies that improperly excluded students based on grades, pre-enrollment interviews, a parental participation requirement, or that required citizenship documentation and a minimum level of English language proficiency. The report was based on a review of charter schools’ websites and most charter schools responded by removing pages they said were outdated and didn’t reflect their current policies.

Newsom’s proposed statute would specify that charter schools cannot request or require parents to submit student records before enrolling. And it would require that charter schools post parental rights on their websites and make parents aware of them during enrollment and when students are expelled or leave during the year.

The proposed statute implies there should be no allowances “for any reason” that might discourage any pupil from enrolling in a charter school.

It’s a good start.

Yet Again, Bernie is Right

Sanders is calling on a ban for for-profit charter schools and a halt to further charter school expansion.

I wholeheartedly approve.

Charters are unaccountable, and frequently corrupt, as well as being the darlings of Wall Street money:

As president, Bernie Sanders would support a ban on for-profit charter schools and a blanket moratorium on public funding for all new charters, the candidate announced in a speech on Saturday, throwing down a new gauntlet on the left in the Democratic debate over education reform.

The Vermont senator laid out a broad education agenda that seeks to address racial disparities on the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Sanders’s plan is quite ambitious, thought it lacks some important details.

He wants to triple federal Title I funding for schools that serve a large number of low-income students, set a national salary floor for teachers of $60,000, and provide universal school meals: breakfast, lunch, and snacks for every student year-round.

But his proposed prohibition on for-profit charter schools and temporary ban on government spending on new nonprofit charters is a foray into the most divisive piece of the education reform debate. Charter schools have been a source of debate for years between mainstream liberals who see charters as a promising alternative to the traditional public schools and the labor left that considers them an attack on teachers unions because charters are typically unorganized.


For existing charter schools, Sanders would propose that they be subject to the same oversight requirements as regular schools, that half of a charter school’s board members be parents and teachers, and that charters be required to disclose certain student and funding data.

Charter schools do not in the whole outperform public schools, and we have seen repeated examples of corruption and self-dealing, so ending for-profit chains, and placing a hold on expansion until appropriate oversight can be implemented is just basic good governance.

I would prefer to see them shut down completely, I think that they are primarily an attempt to loot, with a side order of union busting, but this is a good start.

Clearly, Market Forces Work in Public Education

It turns out that small education systems in California are balancing their books by approving any Charter school that comes to them, and then charging them fees for non-existent “oversight”.

I’m not sure if this is charter schools bribing boards of education, or if it is boards of ed extorting charter schools, but it is indicative of the corruption inherent in the system:

The superintendent’s plan was born of necessity.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, as tax revenue plummeted, small school districts across California quickly felt the pain. Many were already lean, where administrators did the work of two or three, and students were counted in tens, not thousands. The economic collapse threatened their very existence.

In Superintendent Brent Woodard’s rural district, which covered the towns of Acton and Agua Dulce about 45 miles north of Los Angeles, enrollment in 2013 had fallen by more than a quarter over five years. The area’s population had aged, the birthrate declined and some students were choosing to attend schools outside the district. Without increasing revenue or making harmful cuts, the district was facing insolvency and the threat of a state takeover.

In California’s charter school law, Woodard saw financial salvation.


Court records detail how — methodically and rapidly — the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District began approving new charter schools. The first year, there were two. The next: 11. By 2017, the district, which operates only three schools of its own, had authorized 17 charter schools.

Some were located outside the district’s geographical boundaries, in places like L.A., Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Some were based entirely online.

Each charter brought the district something it badly needed: money.

Across California, other small districts hatched similar plans as word spread that they could fix their financial problems by approving certain types of charters and then charging them for a range of services.

This sort of corruption is the rule, rather than the exception, and  it is a feature, not a bug.

Looting, and busting teachers’ unions, are the real goals of the charter school movement, and so these activities should come as no surprise.

It’s On

The teachers of the Los Angeles Unified School District have gone on strike, meaning that over 30,000 teachers will be on the picket lines, 500,000 students will be out, and 900 schools will be shuttered.

You will see a lot about pay and benefits, but this is really about the leadership of the LAUSD wanting to starve the public schools to feed the charter school industry:

More than 30,000 Los Angeles public-school teachers began the largest school strike in the country on Monday and the first in three decades in the district. Holding plastic-covered signs on rain-drenched picket lines across the city, they demanded higher pay, smaller classes and more support staff in schools.

The strike effectively shut down learning for roughly 500,000 students at 900 schools in the district, the second-largest public school system in the nation. The schools remained open, staffed by substitutes hired by the city, but many parents chose to keep their children at home, either out of support for the strike or because they did not want them inside schools with a skeletal staff.

With negotiations apparently at a standstill, the strike could last days or even weeks.

The decision to walk off the job came after months of negotiations between the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Although educators on all sides agree California should spend more money on education, the union and the district are locked in a bitter feud about how Los Angeles should use the money it already gets.

The above article only mentions charter schools by accident, but when you actually listen to the teachers, it is clears that looting by charter schools, and incessant high stakes testing, are the top of the list of grievances.

Another Upside to the 2018 Elections

In New York state, with the Democrats taking decisive control of the state Senate, charter school support has been decimated:

One of the losers in Tuesday’s election is the charter school movement, which lost a big and reliable advocate when Republicans gave up control of the majority to Democrats in the State Senate, both sides said.

“There’s no question it’s going to be challenging,” said Robert Bellafiore, a consultant who works with charter schools. He also was part of the team under former Gov. George Pataki that authorized charter schools in 1998.

The strongest backer of charter schools now is Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who wields extraordinary power in crafting state budgets under New York law.


“This is a moment for charter schools,” said Andy Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, which has opposed expansion of charter schools and seeks greater transparency of their operations. “I think they lost their influence in the Capitol.”

Senate Democrats wouldn’t say what their plans are for charter schools or if the new majority would support any expansion.

Here’s a thought for New York Democrats:  Pass a law that requires that charter schools to be subject to the state Freedom of Information Act. (FOIA)

Any time someone does a deep dive into charter school operations, corruption and malfeasance are always uncovered, so making it easier for parents, journalists, and activists to peruse their books will result in greater accountability.

Ohio Supreme Court Puts Final Nail in Coffin of ECOT

ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) was a virtual charter school in Ohio.

While technically a non-profit, it sub-contracted many services from its founder’s for profit companies, generating big bucks.

It also had mind boggling high dropout rate, and having more dropouts than any other school in the country.

The business model appears to pretend to educate students, and take that money and donate a portion of it to (usually Republican) politicians to get political cover.

Eventually, after burning through about a billion dollars in state money, the Ohio Department of Education, pushed by a New York Times expose, fined them for falsifying attendance numbers, and the state auditor subpoenaed their records to ensure that records are preserved in the event of a criminal investigation.

The school closed, and has been fighting the fine, but Ohio Supreme Court has decided that reports of their demise are not exaggerated:

The Ohio Supreme Court delivered what is likely a death blow on Wednesday to the state’s largest charter school, but the political fight over ECOT is expected to go strong through the November election.

In a 4-2 ruling, the high court said the Ohio Department of Education was legally permitted to require the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow to show student log-in duration data in order to verify its enrollment and justify its state funding.

“We determine that (state law) is unambiguous and authorizes ODE to require an e-school to provide data of the duration of a student’s participation to substantiate that school’s funding,” Justice Patrick Fischer wrote for the majority, joined by Justice Mary DeGenaro, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, and appellate Judge W. Scott Gwin, sitting in for Justice Judith French.

Like the lower courts, the majority struggled to accept the notion that online schools should get full payment for enrolled students even if they only rarely turn on their computers.

Starting in 2016, the Department of Education has ordered ECOT to repay $80 million for unverified enrollment over two years, after finding that a number of students were logging in far less than the 920 hours of instruction required by the state. ECOT sued, arguing that the department improperly changed the rules, illegally basing state funding on student participation, which is not the standard for traditional schools.


Today’s ruling confirms the expectation that Ohio’s online schools document the education they provide,” said Brittany Halpin, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Education. “Ultimately, this is what’s best for students and taxpayers alike. We’re pleased the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the Department’s interpretation of the law and we remain committed to ensuring that all community schools receive their correct funding.”

I would note that this sort of corruption is the rule, not the exception with charter schools.

Almost every time that there is a comprehensive audit of a charter, a morass of self dealing and corruption is revealed.

And Today in Charter School Corruption

Kipp Schools, the star of the hagiography Waiting for Superman, has been caught ripping off poor parents by demanding illegal fees, and when caught they refused to refund them:

Charter schools claim they are public schools. They are not. What public school is part of a corporate chain? What public school operates for profit? What public schools charges fees for service?

The KIPP schools in Houston have been charging fees to poor parents. Now that the scam has been exposed, KIPP refuses to refund the money to parents who need the money far more than the multi-million dollar KIPP organization does. KIPP [should] ask its patron, the rightwing Walton Family Foundation, for a few more dollars, enough to reimburse the needy families that it ripped off.

Supporters of school privatization will claim that this is an aberration.  It isn’t.

This is a natural and foreseeable consequence of applying the for-profit business model to a public good.

It’s all about maximizing profit on while being paid by the taxpayers.

This is a feature, not a bug.

And Today in Charter Schools………

We have a multi-state charter school chain facing allegations of systematic corruption.

This is not a surprise.  Charter schools as currently structured are a uniquely criminogenic enterprise.

Truth be told, the 18% management fee referenced in the article is rather larcenous in and of itself, since most of the managing is done by the staff on each campus.

If anyone believes that allowing charter schools to “unleash the market” will produce better results for less, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you:

The founder of an Akron-area charter school company is accused of using thousands of dollars parents paid for student lunches and uniforms and millions more from Ohio and Florida taxpayers to fund home mortgages, plastic surgery, extensive world travel, credit card debt and more.

Criminal charges filed last week in Florida against Marcus May also allege he improperly used private and public funds earmarked for students’ education to expand his charter school empire in Columbus, Akron, Cleveland and Dayton.

Florida State Attorney William “Bill” Eddins brought the charges of racketeering and organized fraud against May, the founder of Newpoint Education Partners and Cambridge Education, a Fairlawn company that manages about 20 charter schools in Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Akron, Youngstown, Canton and Cleveland.

In a prepared statement provided to the Beacon Journal on Friday, Cambridge Executive Director John Stack said: “My co-owners and I asked for and today accepted Mr. May’s resignation as managing member of Cambridge. We are now in discussions to remove him completely from ownership in the company because we feel it’s in the best interest of our schools.

“Despite this distraction, my colleagues at Cambridge and I will continue to focus on our core mission and the students we serve as we have always done.”

Cincinnati businessman Steven Kunkemoeller also was charged in the First Judiciary Circuit, a regional court in Florida. Kunkemoeller is a longtime business partner of May, according to a Beacon Journal/Ohio.com report from December and a multi-state investigation that included help from the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office.


The Florida prosecutor alleges that the men fabricated invoices, embellished enrollment, misappropriated public funds and created an elaborate network of limited liability companies in order to bilk the federal and state governments, as well as parents and students.


School and business records obtained by the Beacon Journal and detailed by a forensic accountant working on the case show that May and Kunkemoeller marked up the price of services and supplies provided to the charter schools they managed in Ohio and Florida, sometimes more than doubling the cost of school uniforms, desks, computers, chairs and website design.


Between 2010 and 2015, $350,000 was collected from students and parents for uniforms, and another $11,000 for school lunches, the Florida investigation found. Beyond Newpoint’s 18 percent management fee, millions more have been collected from inflated or allegedly fictitious invoices, according to court filings.

Further Adventures in Charter School Corruptions

ECOT online charter school has just been caught bilking the state of Ohio out of money with phantom students:

A judge today denied a request by the state’s largest online charter school to stop the state from requiring that it produce attendance records to justify the $106 million it got last year in state funding.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French ruled in favor of the Ohio Department of Education, rejecting a preliminary injunction request by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow that would have immediately blocked the state from using log-in records and other data to determine how many full-time students actually attend the school

The department has already completed its attendance audit on ECOT for last school year. The ruling means ECOT could be forced to repay tens of millions of dollars based on recent state calculations that its enrollment numbers last year were heavily inflated.

This is a feature, not a bug.

The charter school industry was created in a way that makes it a petri dish for fraud, and rather unsurprisingly, fraud flourishes there.