Accountability Charter Schools Disruption Education Industry For-Profit Fraud Privatization

Charter Schools: A Very Horrible, Terrible, Awful Week

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This has been possibly the very worst week in the history of charter schools, which have existed for almost 30 years. It is fitting that this week coincided with Public Schools Week, reminding us of the importance of public schools, which are democratically governed, open to all who apply, and accountable, financially and academically, to the public.

Consider the trajectory of the charter idea.

What began as in idealistic proposal–experimental schools-within-schools, created and operated by teachers with the approval of their colleagues and local school board, intended to reach out and help the struggling and turned-off students—has turned into a libertarian’s dream of deregulated, even unregulated industry replete with corporate chains, entrepreneurs, billionaire backers, highly segregated schools, and a battering ram against collective bargaining.

Charter schools in the initial version were supposed to collaborate with public schools to make them better or to learn from failed experiments. That was charter 1.0.

That didn’t last long. Entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to profit from guaranteed public funding while skimping on teacher pay. Grifters saw a chance to get rich with land deals and leases. Ideologues like the Waltons and the Koch brothers saw a way to get rid of teachers’ unions.

Democrats were duped by the rhetoric of “saving poor kids from failing schools,” which was spouted by Obama, Duncan, Romney, Trump, and DeVos.

But this week, all the flowery rhetoric melted.

First came the report from the Network for Piblic Education, revealing the waste of nearly $1 billion in federal funds awarded to charters that never opened or soon closed.

Then began a three-part series in the Los Angeles Times by Anna Phillips on charter corruption and a state law that invites charter waste and abuse.

Then began a series jointly sponsored by Northjersey.com and USA Today on the ways that charter operators use public funds to build charter facilities that are privately owned, not public. Legal theft, you might call it.

Even the Onion chimed in, with a satirical piece about an innovative charter school that accepts no students.

Will the charter spin machine recover or are we seeing a new boldness on the part of the press?

Perhaps the new attention to charter scandals was encouraged when a team of reporters at the Arizona Republic received the prestigious George Polk Award for its exposes of charter scandals in that state.

The mask has fallen away.

Lets give credit where it’s due. Betsy DeVos has made crystal clear that she loves charters, hates accountability, and welcomes profit making. Thanks, Secretary DeVos, for explaining the end game of privatization.

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