Friday, September 9, 2016

How messed up is California’s charter school sector? You won’t believe how much. - The Washington Post

How messed up is California’s charter school sector? You won’t believe how much. - The Washington Post:

How messed up is California’s charter school sector? You won’t believe how much.

Image result for big education ape California’s charter


 Ohio and Utah are known in education circles for having extraordinarily troubled charter school sectors, and the same is true in  Pennsylvania, where Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a report this year and declared his state’s charter school law the “worst” in the nation.

But there is another place with a scandal-plagued charter sector that gets less national attention than it should: California, which has more charter schools and charter school students than any other state in the nation, and where one billionaire came up with a secret plan to “charterize” half of  the Los Angeles Unified School District.
There is a never-ending stream of charter scandals coming from California. For example, a report released recently (by the ACLU SoCal and Public Advocates, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy group) found that more than 20 percent of all California charter schools have enrollment policies that violate state and federal law. A Mercury News investigation published in April revealed how the state’s online charter schools run by Virginia-based K12 Inc., the largest for-profit charter operator in the country, have “a dismal record of academic achievement” but has won more than $310 million in state funding over the past dozen years.
There was the scandal involving a charter school principal who also doubled as a National Basketball Association scout, traveling first class to basketball games around the country — and charging his travel expenses to his charter school. Don’t forget the one involving a charter school that closed in 2014 after state auditors found a number of issues, including indications that administrators funneled millions of dollars in state funds to the schools’ operator and her family and friends.
As the Los Angeles Times reported, some of the allegations against the school operator were downright “bizarre.” Auditors questioned the use of school funds to pay a more than half a million-dollar settlement to a former teacher who sued, claiming she had been wrongly terminated after she was ordered by the school director to travel to Nigeria and marry the director’s brother-in-law so he could become a U.S. citizen. The operator’s penalty? She paid “a $16,000 fine for misconduct that includes using public education funds to lease her own buildings,” the Times said.
What these reveal is a state charter law that allows charter schools to operate loosely, with little if any accountability or transparency to the public. The charter lobby in California has successfully fought off legislative efforts to bring more accountability to the charter sector — at least so far.
Now there is a bill awaiting the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown which would require more accountability and transparency from the state’s charters schools. Brown, who has been a supporter of charter schools, has not indicated what he will do, though California’s treasurer, John Chiang, has said the legislation is vital to make charter schools more accountable to the public. Brown, who started two charter schools when he was mayor of Oakland, last year vetoed a bill that would have banned for-profit charters.
This is the first of four posts on the state of charters in California. It was written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education. She was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year. Her four-part series will be part of an extended national report on charter schools that will be published by the Network for Public Education in 2017.
By Carol Burris
You can find a charter in a mall right near a Burger King, where students as young as 12 meet their “teacher on demand.” Or, you can make a cyber visit to the “blended learning” Epic Charter School, whose students are required to meet a teacher (at a convenient, to be determined location) only once every 20 days. There is an added bonus upon joining Epic: Students receive $1,500 for a personal “learning fund,” along with a laptop computer. The enrollment site advertised that students could boost that fund by referring others to the charter chain.
A superintendent can expand his tiny rural district of 300 students to 4,000 by running “independent study” charters in storefronts in cities miles away, netting millions in revenue for How messed up is California’s charter school sector? You won’t believe how much. - The Washington Post:
Image result for big education ape California’s charter

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