The racial isolation in many charter schools, however, is undeniable. Preston Green, a professor of educational leadership and law at the University of Connecticut, isn’t particularly surprised. The paradox that is neither addressed nor resolved in Guggenheim’s film is that if unions are truly the source of all that ails urban public education, as the movie seems to claim, why aren’t the predominantly non-union charter schools performing better? For example, Stanford University, in the first national study conducted on the academic performance of charter school students, found that only 17 percent of charter school students were outperforming their public school peers on math assessments. While a shift appears underway and some lawmakers are taking encouraging steps, Green also cautions that progress can easily stall. “More still needs to be done.
This is “bargaining for the common good” in action. They also adhere to the original vision that led to the opening of the first charter school in 1992 — as incubators of innovation that would collaborate with public schools. He likened the situation to the subprime loan crisis that triggered the 2008-09 economic recession. In Arizona, modest charter reforms are finally showing signs of life in the legislature — thanks in large part to the leadership of the Arizona Education Association (AEA). “Our students are the ones who suffer when we don’t hold charter schools accountable,” says AEA President Joe Thomas. Although the rate of expansion has slowed somewhat in recent years, charter schools are deeply entrenched in the American education landscape. (There are approximately 7,000 charter schools spread across 44 states and the District of Columbia.) Some of these schools are generally effective and are subject to the same basic safeguards as public schools. Despite this record, its CEO received an $8.8 million payout in 2017.
As state legislatures and school districts are starving public education — asking educators to do far more with far less — the corporate billionaires behind the growth of unaccountable charter schools have been privatizing public education and diverting resources from our children to their wallets.” – NEA President Lily Eskelsen García Ohio’s charter sector — once considered the “Wild, Wild West” for charter expansion — has been knocked back on its heels by a deluge of embarrassing failures, most notably the notorious failure of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the state’s largest charter virtual school that closed its doors suddenly in late 2018. (Indeed, the record of cyber charters nationwide is dismal across-the-board.) The resulting outcry forced Ohio lawmakers to pass a series of measures designed to strengthen accountability and require fraudulent charter school funds to be returned to school districts. This rather sudden reversal of fortune comes after more than two decades of almost unchecked expansion, fueled by deep pockets, minimal transparency, and adoring national media coverage. Educators and their unions have lobbied for checks on the charter industry for years, but “more communities are coming to see that charter expansion is in no way some sort of magic cure-all,” says Bob Tate, NEA senior policy analyst. “To the contrary, charter expansion has been creating more problems than it helps solve.” The ‘Bubble’ Starts to Burst Just days before Ducey’s address, the Grand Canyon Institute, a centrist think tank based in Phoenix, released a report that suggested that Arizona’s lightly-regulated charter sector may be on the verge of a mini-meltdown. Enrollment continues to grow, sapping $600 million annually from public schools. Charter schools open quickly but close quickly too, sometimes mid-year, leaving parents and student scrambling. And these public schools are accomplishing this feat despite research showing that many charter schools are serving lower percentages of special needs students and English Language Learners than their local public schools. Today, however, the correlation Green drew seems pretty spot-on. “We warned that the policy of multiple authorizers, which was designed to increase the number of charter schools, could lead to the insufficient screening of charter schools,” Green explains. “Independent authorizers would be freer to issue charters because they did not assume the risk of failure.” Those risks have become reality.
Despite the heavy promotion of charter schools in Waiting For Superman, research shows that they are no panacea. (Read the full statement of NEA President Dennis Van Roekel on the movie.) Improving lower-performing schools does not require a silver bullet, but a multi-faceted approach that involves teachers, support staff, administrators, parents, and community members. Thurmond, strongly backed by the California Teachers Association, has promised to curb the growth of charter schools in the state. By Kevin Hart In the opening minutes of the new education “reform” documentary Waiting For Superman, director Davis Guggenheim has a moment of candor about the charter schools he hails as a panacea for urban education — he admits that most of them are not exactly getting extraordinary results. Put another way, students at largely unionized neighborhood schools are twice as likely to progress better in their achievement than students in the largely non-unionized charter schools that are competing to enroll them. U.S. With UTLA showing the way, expect more educators in other states to make unaccountable charter schools and their financial impact on public schools a lynchpin of their organizing and mobilization efforts. “What UTLA members and community supporters of the strike called attention to is the part about charters that has tended to get talked about a lot less: how charter expansion has deprived public school students of the resources they need,” Bob Tate explains. Los Angeles educators made a cap on charter schools and a reexamination of their impact a central tenet of their recent historic strike.
Forty-six percent of charter school students had results that were indistinguishable from the results of their public school peers, and 37 percent of charter school students were performing significantly worse. According to an investigation by the Arizona Republic, Primavera Online charter school has the third-highest dropout rate in the state and test scores that are below average. It’s California, however, that has dealt the charter industry its most serious recent setbacks. Through common-good bargaining “communities and citizens see what they and unions can accomplish working together that they often cannot achieve acting alone,” says Tate. “Coalitions such as that built between NEA members, parents, and other community stakeholders can be powerful forces for our students and for the common good of our communities — as we just saw in Los Angeles.” Preston Green also credits educators in helping inform the public about the dangers posed by unfettered charter school growth. This week, in a 5-1 vote, the school board passed a resolution calling for a state study into the impact of charters and an 8- to 10-month moratorium on new charters in the district until the study is complete.
The institute examined charter school finances between 2014 and 2017 and concluded that more homework market than 100 of the state’s 540 charter schools are in danger of closing because of excessive debt and other financial troubles. “You will see a bunch of charters folding suddenly,” said the report’s co-author Curt Cardine, a former charter school executive. Many charter schools today, however, are for-profit, corporate chains that seek not to collaborate, but to compete with public schools for enrollment and taxpayer dollars. Caputo believes the unchecked growth of unaccountable, corporate charter schools in the city “will lead to the demise of the civic institution of public education.” Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) currently has more charter schools and more charter school students than any other school system in the nation. Caputo-Pearl called the vote “a win for justice, transparency, and common sense.” The charter moratorium vote is a groundbreaking moment in the fight for public education in LA, one that is reflective of what UTLA members, parents, and our communities have fought so hard for: A sustainable public school district that serves all students. https://t.co/diYkz7hYlh — United Teachers Los Angeles (@UTLAnow) January 30, 2019 /**/ /**/ And one that is likely to reverberate across the country. Roughly 2,500 schools shut their doors between 2001 and 2014. “We know improvements can be made,” Ducey said. “More transparency, more accountability, and granting financial review and oversight over taxpayer dollars.” But, as EJ Montini pointed out in The Arizona Republic, Ducey, an ardent supporter of school privatization, couldn’t actually bring himself to attach the words “charter school” to that or any other sentence in his speech. “You can’t begin to confront a problem when you can’t even speak its name,” Montini wrote. “If the governor really wants ‘more transparency’ and ‘more accountability,’ as he says, a good first step would be admitting where the problem lies. In a recent discussion on Waiting For Superman on NEA Today’s Facebook page, educators said that by focusing on teachers and their unions, Guggenheim painted an overly simplistic and ultimately inaccurate look at the problems facing education in many low-income communities. The problem was noted as far back as 2004, when a U.S.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, whose foundation has donated tens of millions of dollars to charter schools, have both warned charter school operators that a lack of accountability for under-performing schools was giving the entire movement a black eye. In recent legislative hearings in New Jersey, the head of the state’s charter school association also acknowledged that lax charter school oversight in some states was hindering charter schools from improving student achievement. The paper sparked an immediate and fierce reaction from charter school stalwarts. In November 2018, Marshall Tuck, a former charter executive, was defeated in the closely-watched race for state superintendent by Tony Thurmond. As these schools have saturated many districts across the country, the costs to public education and to communities has become clearer, and the people have begun to push back. As teacher and blogger Peter Greene wrote in 2017, “just google ‘charter school closes unexpectedly,’ and watch the stories pile up.” The charter “bubble” Green identified may be forming in Chicago according to a new article published in Journal of Urban Affairs. “Faulty and simplistic assumptions behind market-based strategies,” the authors write, “has led to an overproduction of charter schools — the results of a self-interested growth mandate that can undermine the stability of the public school system as a whole.” ‘More Work Needs to Be Done’ Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, takes it a step further. Little wonder then that many corporate charter school operators and their backers nowadays may be a little dazed and confused.
The biggest change at many of these schools was that they began listening more to educators and inviting them into the decision-making process. States’ unwillingness to aggressively regulate and close under-performing charter schools has been a source of tension even within the charter school community. Until that time arises, public officials will not act.” How Bad Do For-Profit, Virtual Schools Have to Get? How can hundreds of millions of state funds be squandered on schools fraught with fraud, mismanagement, and a shoddy academic record? Welcome to the world of for-profit, virtual charter schools. Many charter schools open quickly, but they close quickly as well. And of course, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), in their historic and successful six-day strike in January, forced the district to reevaluate the impact of charter schools in their communities.
In 2016, Green published a paper called “Are We Headed Toward a Charter School Bubble?” in which he made the case that the glut of charter school authorizers and the scarcity of oversight was creating an abundance of poor performing schools in low-income communities. Educators at these schools say that success didn’t happen overnight — it was hard work that required buy-in from all stakeholders. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, roughly 2,500 schools shut their doors from 2001 to 2014. It’s that admission, educators say, that proves that Waiting For Superman’s subsequent criticisms of public school teachers and their unions are not only overly simplistic, but inaccurate. Just say it … charter schools.” As catalogued in an investigative series by The Republic, the state’s for-profit charter sector is plagued by financial mismanagement, profiteering, and a mixed (at best) academic record.
But the research has shown these schools to be the exception and not the rule. I do not think the public truly understands all the problems posed by charter schools. Racial Isolation of Charter School Students Exacerbating Resegregation No one is holding charter schools responsible for the the return of Civil Right-era levels of segregation. Glossing over this reality, however, has become something of a time-consuming — and increasingly futile — task for pro-privatization lawmakers in the state and across the nation. This holistic approach has yielded results in places like Putnam City West High School in Oklahoma City, where educators have engaged parents and the community to boost the graduation rate of Hispanic students by 70 percent; and Denver, where the teacher-led Math and Science Leadership Academy is taking a collaborative approach that focuses on mentoring and professional development to boost student achievement; and in Las Vegas, where a teacher empowerment program has led to remarkable gains, including at Culley Elementary School, a “high achieving” school where only five years ago, less than a quarter of students were at grade level. Increasingly, unions are building coalitions with partners around contract demands that benefit the greater community.
Department of Education study concluded that charter schools, as a group, were not raising student achievement and were not being closed. Those problems run the gamut from poverty to poor health care and nutrition to a lack of parental and community involvement. “Teachers try our very best, but we cannot work miracles when students are sent to school at a grave disadvantage because they have not received proper prenatal care, proper nutrition, stimulation, and home literacy experiences,“ said New York kindergarten teacher Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski. “The cycle of poverty needs to be stopped.” The fact is, there are high-performing charter schools operating in the United States.