The Senate ESEA Reauthorization Draft, Part V– Charters
This is my fifth post on contents of the Alexander-Murray, Senate reauthorization draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) scheduled to be presented to the Senate education committee on April 14, 2015.
Alexander and Murray call their 601-page draft, Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.
At the end of Part IV, I left off at page 373.
Next comes the creatively-named Title V: “Empowering Parents and Expanding Opportunity Through Innovation.”
This is my longest post yet.
Keep in mind that the Alexander-Murray reauthorization welcomes the likes of five-week-trained, Teach for America (TFA) recruits to not only establish teacher churn in the charter school classroom, but also to move up the administration ladder once their two- to three-year classroom career ends. (See Part III of this series.)
The Alexander-Murray draft does not often call them “charter schools”; they authors carefully include the term “public,” calling the “choice” schools “public charter schools.”
SEC. 5101. PURPOSE. It is the purpose of this part to—(1) provide financial assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools;(2) increase the number of high-quality charter schools available to students across the United States;(3) evaluate the impact of such schools on student achievement, families, and communities, and share best practices among charter schools and other public schools;(4) encourage States to provide support to charter schools for facilities financing in an amount more nearly commensurate to the amount the States have typically provided for traditional public schools;‘‘(5) expand opportunities for children with disabilities, students who are English learners, and other traditionally underserved students to attend charter schools and meet the challenging State academic standards under section 1111(b)(1); and(6) support efforts to strengthen the charter school authorizing process to improve performance management, including transparency, monitoring, including financial audits, and evaluation of such schools. (pgs. 374-75)
The Alexander-Murray draft is certainly friendly to “public” charter schools. However, Title V funding is also supposed to be used to ensure that those “public” charter schools truly do serve the same “public” that the traditional public schools serve: “children with disabilities, students who are English learners, and other traditionally underserved students.” Also, Title V of the Alexander-Murray draft calls for “transparency, monitoring, including financial audits, and evaluation of such schools.”
I would like to see America’s “public” charters held to serving the same populations as traditional public schools and truly, truly evaluated and audited.
The reality is that many charters do not serve the same proportions of the neediest students as do the traditional public schools. Too, many charters are able to escape audit of their public funding by declaring themselves as private entities in the face of looming, public-funding audit.
Many charters today are public money-private money hybrids and play the “public” card when trying to drum up a student body that naturally comes from the traditional public schools, and they play the “private” card to escape answering to the “public” for the use of their “public” funding.
Back to the Alexander-Murray, Title V charter herald:
Next comes the terminology, “high quality” charter, and the call for “the replication of high-quality charter schools, and the expansion of high-quality charter schools” (pg. 376).
Before a charter can be declared “high quality,” a “high quality” system of charter school accountability must first be established. The Title V subgrants are supposed to include “a description of how the State will actively monitor and hold authorized public chartering agencies accountable to ensure high-quality authorizing activity, including by establishing authorizing standards and by approving, reapproving, and revoking the authority of an authorized public chartering agency based on the performance of the charter schools authorized by such agency in the areas of student achievement, student safety, financial management, and compliance with all applicable statutes” (pg. 386).
If such “accountability” were the norm, charter school scandals would not be as rampant as they are.
The Alexander-Murray bill does not have the teeth to curb charter school exploitation of public funding.
Note that the Alexander-Murray reauthorization calls for “monitoring” even as it “assures” charters “a high degree of autonomy”:
(2) ASSURANCES.—Assurances that—(A) each charter school receiving funds through the State entity’s program will have a high degree of autonomy over budget and operations, including autonomy over personnel decisions (pg. 389)
And back to the “monitoring” of these “highly-autonomous” charters:
(D) the State entity will promote quality authorizing, such as through providing technical assistance to support each authorized public chartering agency in the State to improve such agency’s ability to monitor the charter schools authorized by the agency, including by—(i) using annual performance data, which may include graduation rates and student academic growth data, as appropriate, to measure a school’s progress toward becoming a high-quality charter school;(ii) reviewing the schools’ independent, annual audits of financial statementsThe Senate ESEA Reauthorization Draft, Part V– Charters | deutsch29: