Latest News and Comment from Education

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Danger of California Charter Schools - UConn Today

The Danger of California Charter Schools - UConn Today:

The Danger of California Charter Schools 
Image result for california charter school segregation

Black and Latino students in California are attending schools as racially segregated and unequally funded as those of the “separate but equal” era of late 19th-century America. And parents eager to give their children a better education are responding by enrolling them in charter schools.
But although charter schools are intended to offer students better educational opportunities, they also pose a danger of making inequities worse than they were.
That’s according to a new study by Preston Green, professor of education and law at the University of Connecticut, and Joseph Oluwole, associate professor of counseling and educational leadership at Montclair State University.
In a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Transformative Leadership & Policy Studies, Green and Oluwole compare charter schools, which by design have greater latitude from state rules and regulations than traditional public schools, to the “schools of excellence” established by the African-American community in the wake of the 1869 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson.
Those schools – so-called “separate but equal” – were characterized by high-quality teachers and administrators determined to prepare students for the racism they would face as adults in a segregated society, a stern but caring educational environment, and a partnership with their communities to overcome the deprivations caused by unequal funding.
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I think we are not taking seriously the dangers that privatization creates.— Preston Green
While charter schools can offer black and Latino students a modern-day version of that opportunity, there are outside entities that put financial gain ahead of educational quality looking to open charter schools in these communities, warn Green and Oluwole.
Unfettered expansion of the schools driven by these groups could further drain the educational resources of these communities, creating conditions even worse than those in the Jim Crow-like era after Plessy.
“A lack of restrictions in California’s charter school regulations could potentially create a situation that would be even worse than Plessy, as a result of  black and Latino communities losing control of education funding allocated to them,” says Green.
California is certainly not the only state attempting to offset segregation and funding inequality with charter schools, but a complex set of factors in that state has heightened the risks associated with them. A series of court decisions and ballot initiatives have limited the ability of local school districts to raise taxes to pay for education. That has left the funding of schools largely up to the state, but the state failed to adequately do so.
In 2013, state lawmakers enacted a funding formula aimed at correcting that, funneling $18 billion in supplemental grants to school districts, based on their population of English language learners and low-income students – an initiative that a study shows has increased math scores and graduation rates among poor black and Latino students.
That’s where the danger lies, says Green. If outside organizations are allowed to develop charter schools without restrictions, they could drain these resources away from already underfunded traditional public schools serving poor minority students, he says.
In 2017, the state supreme court shut down one such strategy: resource centers.
Before that ruling, rural districts fueled the growth of resource centers – non-classroom-based independent study programs typically housed in office buildings, strip malls, and even former liquor stores located outside the authorizing school district’s borders. Rural districts would create resource centers to generate revenue for themselves from the authorizing fees, even Continue reading: The Danger of California Charter Schools - UConn Today:
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The History of Institutional Racism in U.S. Public Schools - Garn Press -
Big Education Ape: Charter schools boom in California. Here's where they grew | The Sacramento Bee -

Control Issues in Charter Schools - The CPA Journal

Control Issues in Charter Schools - The CPA Journal:
Control Issues in Charter Schools
An Examination of New York State Comptroller’s Audits

In Brief
Charter schools are a controversial topic in education and politics because the public funding they receive makes them quasi-public organizations; thus, political groups, authorizing bodies, and local communities are all greatly interested in their financial results. Even CPAs who specialize in school district audits may need a refresher on charter schools, which have very different governance concerns and audit risks. This article provides an overview of New York State charter schools, including funding, governance structure, and audit requirements—and how these characteristics create unique financial audit issues for CPAs. The authors’ examination of 54 internal control audits of New York charter schools conducted by the Office of the State Comptroller over the past six years can help CPAs become familiar with some common charter school control deficiencies.
* * *
Charter schools are privately managed public schools, independently operated under an authorizing body; in New York State, this is the Board of Regents (sometimes through an approved application forwarded by a chartering entity, such as the State University of New York Board of Trustees). The type of authorizer and level of oversight varies from state to state, but in New York State, charters are required to file an annual report that includes detailed enrollment and fiscal information. The New York State legislature decided in 2010 that charters would be subject to the same ethics and conflict of interest laws that pertain to school districts, which empowered the New York State and New York City comptrollers to audit charter school operations. The New York State charter board reassesses schools every five years and, at that time, can deny continuation of a charter.
Management of charter schools varies: though every New York State charter school must be a nonprofit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3), they may operate independently or under either a nonprofit or for-profit management company or sponsoring organization. Though a small number of schools operate under for-profit management, starting in 2010 this practice was not allowed for new charters. Regardless of the charter’s organization, school board members are forbidden from having a financial interest in the management company or any other vendor of the school. Any conflicts of interest should be disclosed in the annual report filed with the New York State Department of Education.
Charter schools are funded in accordance with state law, based on per-pupil spending in the students’ home school district. They may receive donations as a charity, but are not allowed to charge tuition or impose special entrance requirements; they can issue bonds, but may not pledge per-pupil funding to repay the debt. Charters generally have increased autonomy with respect to budgeting and governance because they are independent of local school boards.

Required Audits

New York State charter schools are required under the terms of their charters to have at least one annual financial statement audit, conducted in accordance with U.S. GAAS and U.S. Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) and comparable in scope to school district audits (although, as nonprofits, charter schools follow FASB rather than GASB standards). In addition, an initial statement on internal controls is required for new schools within 120 days of issuance of a charter; any deficiencies must be remedied promptly. Schools might also be subject to particular agreed-upon procedures if they receive certain grant funding from the state. Federal funding of $750,000 or more will subject a charter school to the Single Audit Act, which requires an independent audit with specific guidelines issued by the Office of Management and Budget.

Audit Guidance for CPAs

In 2016, New York State charter school audits took on added importance as additional funding was allocated to charters and the cap on the number of schools was raised to 460. Following these changes, the New York State Department of Education noted variations in the audit quality and in auditors’ understanding of charters; it also published an audit guide for charter schools (“Charter School Audit Guide,” The guide addresses some issues unique to charter schools:
  • A legal requirement to maintain an escrow account with monies to cover legal and audit expenses related to potential dissolution
  • The need to confirm receivables from school districts billed for tuition and other parties, such as USDA food service
  • Payroll for teachers at nonprofit charters who are on 10- or 11-month employment contracts
  • FASB accounting standards for pensions applied to state retirements
  • Investment policies
  • Per-pupil funding
  • Co-locations of charters in public school buildings that would otherwise be empty
  • Management fees
  • Other fraud considerations, such as misappropriation of assets due to the high use of credit cards and related-party transactions.
The guide also outlines issues specific to financial statement presentation in charters and the separate report on internal controls required under GAGAS. In addition, it includes Single Audit Act guidance for schools receiving significant federal funding, as well as the agreed-upon procedures guidance required for recipients of certain New York State grants. Finally, the guide contains many useful audit schedules and templates for CPAs conducting audits of New York State charters.

Control Issues at Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools estimates that there were 6,939 charter schools educating 3.1 million students in the United States during the 2016/17 school year ( Thus, strong financial controls and CPA audit expertise are crucial for prudent management of this growing education sector.
The Center for Popular Democracy is one proponent of increased accountability for charter schools. In its 2014 report, “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse” (, examining large charter markets across 15 states, it found evidence of control failures, including—
  • public funds being used for personal gain,
  • school revenues being used to support charter operators’ other businesses,
  • illegal inflation of enrollment numbers, and
  • revenue generated from services not provided.
The economic magnitude, rapid growth, and relatively new and variable regulatory environment constitute significant fraud risk, which merits a closer look at the audit practices and control pitfalls in charter schools.
Many charter schools in New York State are located in New York City, where audit responsibility rests with the city comptroller; however, a search of the city comptroller’s website revealed only four audits of charter schools. As a result, this discussion examines audits of charter schools outside the city, which are subject to audit by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC). The OSC conducted audits of internal controls in 54 charter schools between 2011 and mid-2017.
Many of the control issues uncovered by the OSC are related to internal control issues common in both traditional school districts and charter schools, such as procurement, payment, and payroll or a need for information technology policies (“Routine Public School Audit Issues” in the Exhibit). Other internal control problems might be less familiar to auditors because they deal with matters that would not arise in a regular school district (“Charter-Specific Issues” in the Exhibit). This examination of the state comptroller’s audits yielded 205 audit recommendations (see the Exhibit).


Public School Issues versus Charter School Issues
Audits; Recommendations Routine Public School Audit Issues Procurement and purchasing; 11; 35 Payment practices; 9; 25 Payroll and benefits; 5; 13 Budget issues; 4; 10 Information technology; 7; 26 Other; 3; 5 Subtotal; 114 Charter-Specific Issues Contracts with sponsoring organizations; 16; 45 Conflicts of interest; 5; 6 Space issues; 7; 15 Residency and billing; 10; 25 Subtotal 91 Total 205
The economic magnitude, rapid growth, and relatively new and variable regulatory environment constitute significant fraud risk.
Of the 54 audits, 38 addressed charter school–specific control issues related to the following four areas: contracts with sponsoring organizations, conflicts of interest, space issues, and residency and billing issues.

Contracts with Sponsoring Organizations

Charter schools typically have a sponsoring organization (i.e., a foundation or a management company) that Continue reading: Control Issues in Charter Schools - The CPA Journal:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Senators to DeVos: Aide Diane Jones Has Significant Conflicts of Interest | Republic Report

Senators to DeVos: Aide Diane Jones Has Significant Conflicts of Interest | Republic Report:

Senators to DeVos: Aide Diane Jones Has Significant Conflicts of Interest

Ten Democratic senators wrote to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos late last week that Diane Auer Jones, who formerly worked for a number of controversial for-profit colleges, has a “significant number of conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety” in her current role as DeVos’s senior policy advisor. The senators charge that Jones “has a history of participating in the revolving door of government and lobbying.”
The letter from the senators, who include Richard Blumenthal (CT), Patty Murray (WA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Dick Durbin (IL), and Kamala Harris (CA), discloses that Jones, who joined the Department last month, has been designed as the Senior Department Official (SDO) in charge of deciding whether the Department will reinstate as a recognized college accreditor the troubled Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The Obama administration had dropped ACICS after many of its schools, including schools for which Jones worked, faced law enforcement probes for deceiving students and taxpayers. The senators write that ACICS “oversaw the biggest collapses of for-profit colleges in the history of federal student aid.”
The senators further tell DeVos, “we are concerned that Ms. Jones may be advising you on a variety of regulatory and administrative matters that directly and indirectly impact her former employers and the for-profit college industry.”
When it was disclosed in March that the DeVos had hired Jones, Republic Report described Jones’s extensive work for the for-profits, including her service from 2010 until 2015 as senior vice president and chief external affairs officer at Career Education Corporation (CEC), where she lobbied for the company on contentious policy issues, including the Obama administration’s gainful employment rule, aimed at preventing colleges from leaving graduates with insurmountable student loan debt. 
Last month, during the final round of public rule-making meetings on the DeVos Department’s plan to gut the gainful employment rule, Jones could be seen sitting with other Department officials behind the negotiating table.
Republic Report also noted that Jones’ had served as an expert witness, providing dubious testimony, for the CollegeAmerica chain in a lawsuit brought by Colorado’s attorney general.
Both CEC and CollegeAmerica have extensive records of predatory practices, and both have faced major law enforcement actions. CEC operated schools accredited by ACICS, and some schools owned by CollegeAmerica chain also previously sought ACICS accreditation. 
The subsequent release of Jones’s financial disclosure form showed additional work for the for-profit college industry, including consulting for the troubled Washington lobby group APSCU (now called CECU.)
The senators write to DeVos regarding Jones, “it is imperative that the public have a better understanding of how the Department plans to address the significant number of conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety that exist in her roles as SDO in the ACICS review process and as an advisor on other policy issues facing the Department such as regulations, enforcement actions, and reviews of conversions by for-profit colleges she may have worked with or represented.”
The for-profit CollegeAmerica chain converted to a non-profit in a deal so troubling that the Obama Education Department, after extensive Continue reading:  Senators to DeVos: Aide Diane Jones Has Significant Conflicts of Interest | Republic Report:

New Zealand Dumps National Standards and Charter Schools - NZ Herald

Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduces bill to end National Standards and charter schools - NZ Herald:
Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduces bill to end National Standards and charter schools

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is closing the door on future charter schools and giving existing ones notice that he can make them close up shop by the end of the school year - though he still hasn't visited one as minister.
Hipkins introduced the Education Amendment Bill today, which would formally end National Standards and charter schools.
"The Government's strong view is that there is no place for them in the New Zealand education system," Hipkins said.
Schools will continue to be required to report to parents, at least twice a year, on their child's progress and achievement.
The National Party has strongly opposed dumping National Standards and charter schools, and repeatedly called on the Government to visit a charter school, such as the Vanguard Military School in Albany.
A spokesman for the minister said Hipkins had visited charter schools while in Opposition.
The bill would mean an end to future charter schools, and allow existing ones to continue while the Ministry of Education considers options - such as becoming a designated character school - on a case-by-case system.
Unlike charter schools, a character school is part of the public education system, is funded like other state schools, and must adhere to the national curriculum.
Five charter schools were scheduled to open in 2018 and will no longer open. Eleven existing charter schools have a combined roll of about 1300 students.
Hipkins wanted existing charter schools to wind up before the end of their contracts by mutual agreement.
"If, however, early termination is not agreed by both parties, I am reserving my right to issue a notice of 'termination for convenience', under charter schools' existing contracts, by the middle of May 2018. This would take effect at the end of the school year."
The final cost of removing the charter school model is unknown. Financial compensation for schools that have their contract terminated would likely cost up to $1 million in financial compensation to the schools, according to the Cabinet paper.
National leader Bill English has criticised the Government legislation to close the 'partnership' schools, saying it was "shameful" Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had not bothered to visit the schools to meet the children at them.
The schools were set up under National's agreement with the Act Party to cater for children who were struggling in the mainstream system. While National was initially lukewarm about them, English was an advocate.
English said closing the schools was "nasty and vindictive behaviour" and was ideological.
"And the victims of it will be young children who could have done better in a school that suited their needs."
He said although Labour had dismissed concerns because the schools had only 1000 students in them, he said those students deserved the opportunities the schools gave them.
He said it was 'shameful' that had challenged Ardern to visit the schools in person to explain the decision to the children.
"I think it shows the PM is uncomfortable with the policy and certainly uncomfortable with facing the impact on the children. I've met these kids, I've met their parents.
They meet the needs of those kids. There might only be 1000 of them but they matter."
He said a significant proportion of the students in the schools were Maori and Ardern had promised Maori up north to deliver to them.
Act leader David Seymour said axing charter schools was "juvenile and callous".
"Struggling kids were having their lives turned around, but this Government will massacre the schools for a combination of ideology and union utu."​
The bill would also mean that anyone signing up to the fees-free tertiary education policy would have to make a declaration. It would not have to be witnessed, but anyone caught lying could lead to a conviction and a $5000 fine.
This aims to deter people from taking advantage of what National has called an "honesty system".
The bill would also restore guaranteed places for staff and student representatives on Tertiary Education Institution councils.
Hipkins is also asking for feedback on when children should be able to start school, though he remains committed to abolishing the previous Government's policy of allowing 4-year-olds to start school if they turned 5 within two months of starting.
National's education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has described the rolling of the policy as "nanny-state".
The 50 schools that have taken up National's policy will still be able to use it until a bill abolishing it is enacted, expected to be in the second half of the year.
In the meantime the Ministry of Education is beginning a consultation process on two options:
• Allowing a cohort of children five and over to start school once a term, at the start of the term
• Allowing a cohort of children five and over to start school twice a term; once at the start of the term and again at the term's mid-point, which would include children who had turned five by that time.
Schools will also be able to continue with continuous entry, which the majority of schools currently choose.
Anyone wanting to participate in the consultation should visit here.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduces bill to end National Standards and charter schools - NZ Herald:

 PM says compromise will help charter schools to convert rather than close - NZ Herald - via @nzherald

Saturday, April 28, 2018

New Report: African American Youth’s Perceptions of Education Landscape|UNCF

New Report: African American Youth’s Perceptions of Education Landscape|UNCF:

New Report: African American Youth’s Perceptions of Education Landscape

UNCF releases its third installment of African American perceptions research on key issues in K-12 education
Nearly 70 percent of low-income African American youth surveyed indicate success in school is a top priority, and 89 percent agree it is important to obtain a post-secondary education, according to a new report issued by UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute (FDPRI).
A Seat at the Table: African American Youth’s Perception of K-12 Education is the third report in UNCF’s three-part series[1] on African American communities’ views of K-12 education. This newest research, which is a call to action around pre-kindergarten through post-secondary education, was released during an annual education summit hosted April 26 by UNCF. The summit serves as a platform for engagement and exploration of the role of African American students, leaders and voices–specifically the role of HBCUs–in education reform efforts, as UNCF seeks to ensure that these perspectives are truly amplified in both research and engagement efforts. View the summit here on Facebook Live.
The key findings of the report highlight perceptions of success, education and future aspirations held by low-income African American youth

Read the report here

“Contrary to a pervasive narrative that racial disparities in education are the sole result of disengaged students, African American youth indicated that success in school was their most important priority among other competing factors,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF. “This is important because research suggests that students who are more engaged and more optimistic about education are more likely to aspire to attend college.”  >> Read More

Did you know?

66 percent of low-income African American youth indicated that success in school was the priority most significant to them.
New Report: African American Youth’s Perceptions of Education Landscape|UNCF:

Arizona teacher strike: it’s not just about a raise. It’s about defending public education. - Vox

Arizona teacher strike: it’s not just about a raise. It’s about defending public education. - Vox:

Arizona teacher walkout: how 3 decades of tax cuts suffocated public schools
In seven charts.

Just in: Arizona teachers union: We don't 'trust' governor's announced deal | TheHill -

Image result for Arizona teacher strike

Arizona teachers are walking out Thursday in protest, after the governor and state legislature failed to meet their demands.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey tried to avert the strike by promising a 20 percent raise over the next three years — a promise that some say is tied to overly optimistic growth projections.
But it’s important to understand why Arizona teachers aren’t just happy with a raise, and why their demands include restoring education funding to where it was a decade ago and a promise from the state lawmakers not to implement more tax cuts.
The state has some of the most poorly funded public schools in the nation — and over the past several decades, state lawmakers have systematically divested from public education. This has been the case in each of the states roiled by teacher unrest, from West Virginia to Oklahoma to Kentucky — and now Arizona.

The root of these education cuts started decades ago, when state legislators gave tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations during times of economic prosperity. The hope was that it would spur economic growth — but that growth never came. When the economy turned south, states needed to raise more revenue.
But conservative lawmakers refused to raise taxes; they just cut spending. And because education often takes up the largest portion of state budgets, schools were hit especially hard.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
This trend has been a threat to public education. More affluent families can find their way to a well-funded school — but that leaves everyone else with a second-class education. It’s a betrayal of the ideal of public education.
And in Arizona, this divestment project has been decades in the making.

“An ideological aversion to taxes”

It’s been nearly 30 years since Arizona’s state legislature approved a tax increase.
The individual tax rates have tumbled downward, and exemptions have increased:

Image result for Arizona teacher strike
 Image result for Arizona teacher strike

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Parents want ‘voices counted’ in search for LAUSD superintendent – Daily News

Valley parents want ‘voices counted’ in search for LAUSD superintendent – Daily News:

Valley parents want ‘voices counted’ in search for LAUSD superintendent

A group of San Fernando Valley parents decried the Los Angeles Unified School District’s search process for the next superintendent and claimed the school board is not being transparent and not seeking input from parents and students.
The school board has not held public input sessions as it did during the last superintendent search and has met in closed session to discuss who will lead the nation’s second-largest school district.
“The student voice and the parent voice must be part of that decision-making process,” said Joe Macias, of Reseda, a parent of two LA Unified students.
Macias and a handful of other parents spoke before the school board went into closed session last week to interview candidates.

LAUSD interim superintendent Vivian Ekchian is among the candidates for the permanent position heading the school district. She is seen above in July 2015 at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in the Lake Balboa area. (File photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News)
LAUSD interim superintendent Vivian Ekchian is reportedly among the candidates for the permanent position heading the school district. She is seen above in July 2015 at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in the Lake Balboa area. (File photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News)

It appeared as though the board would make a decision last week, but on Friday the board announced it would recess until May 1 without reporting a decision had been made.
Superintendent Michelle King revealed in January that she had cancer and said she would retire at the end of the year. King was named superintendent in 2016. Vivian Ekchian has been serving as interim superintendent since September when King went on medical leave. The interviews with the candidates began this month.
“It felt rushed, it felt not transparent and, in a way, it felt disingenuous because they’re talking about parent engagement, but not when it comes to these big decisions like selecting a superintendent,” said Evelyn Aleman, Macias’ wife, who also spoke at last week’s board meeting.
Two years ago, when King was selected superintendent, the board held numerous community forums and a search firm conducted a survey seeking input about what qualities the community wanted to see in the next superintendent. This time around, the board has not gone through the same process. Some have indicated the board could draw on the feedback it received two years ago.

Former Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso is among the finalists for the job of superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. (Courtesy photo)
Former Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso is reportedly among the finalists for the job of superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. (Courtesy photo)

But many parents expressed frustration that they read the names of the finalists in the Los Angeles Times. The Times, citing anonymous sources, reported last week that the finalists are Ekchian, former investment banker and former Times publisher Austin Beutner, and former Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso. Indianapolis public schools superintendent, Lewis Ferebee, announced last week he withdrew his name as a finalist.
“I don’t want the outcome to be that students and parents feel that their voice is not valued by the district. I want parents and students to feel that their participation and their engagement in the democratic process is critical to the success of their schools and the broader district.”
— Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest
Macias said he wished the district would have announced the finalists and that parents and students would be given the opportunity to interview the candidates and review their track record.
“Every one of these candidates has a vision for LAUSD, I just don’t know what that is,” he said.

Former LA Times publisher Austin Beutner is among the candidates for the position of superintendent at the Los Angeles Unified School District. (File photo)
Former LA Times publisher Austin Beutner is reportedly among the candidates for the position of superintendent at the Los Angeles Unified School District. (File photo)

John Rogers, a professor of education at UCLA, said other districts have released the names of  continue reading: Valley parents want ‘voices counted’ in search for LAUSD superintendent – Daily News: