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Providence Plans to Defund Its Public Schools to Expand “No Excuses” Charter

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The evidence is clear that privately managed charters can get higher test scores by culling, exclusion, and attrition. It’s equally clear that charters drain resources from the public schools that enroll most students. Most public officials seem to understand that it costs more to run parallel systems, one public, one private.

But not in Rhode Island, where Governor Gina Raimondo is a big fan of charters (she was a hedge fund manager before running for governor). She is eager to expand Achievement First, a no-excuses charter known for high test scores and harsh discipline.

This article by Linda Borg in the Providence Journal lays out the findings of two independent studies that warned about the negative fiscal impact of charters on public schools (one from Moody’s Investors, the other from the Brookings Institution, which is erroneously described as “left-leaning”).

Borg should also have Gordon Lafer’s significant study of the fiscal drain of charters on the public schools of three districts in California.

Supporters of expanding Achievement First cite a report funded by the Arnold Foundation, a rightwing foundation that zealously supports privatization and opposes public sector pensions. Billionaire John Arnold was an energy trader at Enron.

The recently appointed state commissioner, a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, dismissed the controversy as an “old conversation,” showing her indifference to stripping nearly $30 million from the needy public schools of Providence.

“State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, in an interview Wednesday, called this an “old conversation,” adding that the expansion plan was approved by the Rhode Island Council of Elementary and Secondary Education three years ago after a contentious debate between charter proponents and critics.”

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