Monday, June 6, 2016

Charter schools’ dire lesson: Deregulation invariably leads to disaster -

Charter schools’ dire lesson: Deregulation invariably leads to disaster -

Charter schools’ dire lesson: Deregulation invariably leads to disaster
Moneyed interests have turned learning laboratories into just another racket, plagued by questions of transparency

 The original concept of charter schools emerged nationally more than two decades ago and was intended to support community efforts to open up education. Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers union, lauded the charter idea in 1988 as way to propel social mobility for working class kids and to give teachers more decision-making power.

“There was a sense from the start that they would develop models for the broader system,” John Rogers tells Capital & Main. Rogers, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, is director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access. He adds that charter schools were to be laboratories where parents and educators would work together to craft the best possible learning environment and to serve as engines of innovation and social equity.
But critics of today’s market-based charter movement say monied interests have turned those learning labs into models for capital capture in the Golden State and beyond–“the charter school gravy train,” as Forbes describes it. Charters are publicly funded but privately managed and, like most privately run businesses, the schools prefer to avoid transparency in their operations. This often has brought negative publicity to the schools – last month the Los Angeles Daily News reported that the principal of El Camino Real Charter High School charged more than $100,000 in expenses to his school-issued credit card, many of them for personal use.
“Information belongs to the public,” says Daniel Losen, who conducts law and policy research on education equality issues. “To the extent that you think choice should benefit parents—good choices are made with good information.” Losen co-authored a March, 2016 report about charter schools’ disciplinary policies, produced by theCenter for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.
Billions of taxpayer dollars have flowed into expanding America’s privately-run charter school system over the past two decades, including $3.3 billion in federal funds alone, reports an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy. California has the nation’s largest number of charter schools, with most of them located in Los Angeles County. But in an age when words like “accountability” and “transparency” dominate political discourse, the financial mechanics of charters receive less oversight and scrutiny than the average public school bake sale.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools candidly spells out the Golden State’slaissez fairerules of the game on its website: “California law provides that charter schools are automatically exempt from most laws governing school districts.”
The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) has explicitly opposed state legislation that would clearly define the existing transparency laws and codes for charter schools — standards charters can now avoid despite their use of public funds.
“Charters don’t have to disclose budgets,” says Jackie Goldberg, a long-time Los Angeles school teacher and former Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board president, who also served in the California State Assembly. “Once a charter is written, it’s not subject to the Brown or the Public Records acts.”
The CCSA opposes several bills currently progressing through the state legislature that would bring charter school transparency requirements into line with those expected of public schools. One measure spells out the expectation that charters would follow the same standards as public schools when it comes to the Public Records Act that guarantees access to public records; CCSA argues that most charter schools already voluntarily comply—so the law is Charter schools’ dire lesson: Deregulation invariably leads to disaster -

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