Nationwide Charter School Expansion Slowing Down

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Charter schools used to be seen as the hot new concept in education.


But that fad seems to have jumped the shark.


For two decades since the first charter school law was passed in Minnesota, they’ve grown at about 6 to 7 percent nationally.


But for the last three years, that growth has dropped each year – from 7 to 5 to 2 percent.




Even states that historically boasted the most growth are falling behind. Of charter powerhouses Texas, Florida, Ohio and California – only Texas has shown a significant upward trend.




So what happened?


How did the hippest new thing to hit education since the chalk board suddenly hit such a wall? After all, it wasn’t so long ago that every celebrity from Magic Johnson to Andre Agassi to Deion Sanders to Sean “Puffy” Combs to Pitt Bull had their own charter school. Even Oprah Winfrey, the queen of multimedia, donated millions to charter networks in Louisiana, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas and her home state of Illinois.


How could something with so much high profile support be running out of gas?


The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has a theory.


The charter school funded think tank (read: propaganda network) released a report boiling the issue down to three factors: real estate costs, a teacher shortage and political backlash.


Real estate costs? Yes, few public schools want to offer you public property to put your privately run school that will inevitably gobble up a good portion of its funding and turn a portion of that into profit for private investors.


Teacher shortage? Yes, when you pay your educators the least, don’t allow your employees to unionize, and demand high hours without remuneration, you tend to find it harder than most educational institutions to find people willing to work for you.


Political backlash? DING! DING! DING!


Of course, most people who aren’t paid by the charter school industry – as those working for CRPE are – would simply call this a charter school backlash – not political, at all.


This isn’t one political party seeking advantage over another. It’s concerned citizens from both sides of the aisle worried about the practices of the charter school industry.


The general public is starting to understand exactly what charter schools are and why they are a bad idea for children and society.


For instance:
-Charter schools are rarely controlled by elected school boards – they’re run by appointed bureaucrats.


-They are often run for profit –which means they can reduce services for students and pocket the savings.


-They cherry pick which students to enroll and how long to keep them enrolled – they only let in the easiest to teach and give the boot to any that are struggling before standardized testing time.


-And they very often close unexpectedly and/or are the site of monetary scandals where unscrupulous charter school operators take the money and run.


Moreover, it’s no accident that much of the criticism of charter schools comes from people of color. About one quarter of all charter school students are black, whereas black students make up only 15 percent of enrollment at traditional public schools.


To put that in perspective, approximately 837,000 black students were enrolled at charter schools during the 2016-17 school year. Yet civil rights organizations are concerned that this over-representation is having negative consequences on students of color.


The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has issued numerous criticisms of charter schools most recently calling for a moratorium on them. So has the Movement for Black Lives and the Journey for Justice Alliance.


In addition to the concerns already mentioned, civil rights advocates are concerned with the tendency of charter schools to increase racial segregation.


Seventy percent of black charter school students have few white classmates, according to a study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.


But some charters are even worse. More than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had student bodies made up of at least 99% minority students, according to an Associated Press analysis from three years ago. And it’s getting worse!


Certainly increasing segregation is a problem even at traditional public schools, but nothing like the numbers we’re seeing in the charter school sector.


Civil rights leaders know that “separate but equal” schools don’t work because when they’re separate, they’re rarely equal.


For instance, charter schools suspend students at a much higher rate than traditional public schools. Some charters suspend more than 70% of those enrolled, according to an analysis from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles.



Researchers found the situation is even more dire for minorities. Black students are four times more likely to be suspended than white students, and students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended as non-disabled students.


With all these problems dogging their heels, it’s no wonder that the charter school juggernaut is starting to lose momentum.


Instead of concentrating solely on why these schools are losing popularity, we should also ask what set them shooting off into the stratosphere in the first place.


After all, no one was really crying out for private schools run with public money.


No one, that is, except big business and greedy investors looking for a quick buck.


Since the Clinton administration, charter school investments get automatic tax credits that allow investors to double their money in as little as 7 years. Lobbying at the state and federal level by charter schools and their investors and contractors have enabled a monetary scam to enrich private industry at public expense.


Put simply, charters are not subject to the same instructional, operational, fiscal, accounting or conflict of interest rules as traditional public schools. Therefore, in most states it’s perfectly legal for a charter school operator to give his brother the instructional contract, his sister the maintenance contract and his uncle the textbook contract. He can replace the teachers with computer programs and apps, while his own privately held company rents and leases the school building at a hefty markup – all with public money.


And somehow that’s still called a “public” school.


We have to face this simple fact: Charters took off not because they were a good idea to help kids learn, but because they were an excellent way to make a lot of money off of the government. It was a way to steal money meant to help children.


What we’re seeing in terms of a backlash is just a more common realization of the motives behind charter schools echoed in the negative consequences these schools leave behind.


And in the Trump era, charter schools can’t hide behind a friendly face like Barack Obama.


The neoliberal agenda is as fervently being pushed by the right wing as the left – more so.


This slowdown may signal that people have gone beyond politics.


We don’t care what the left and the right wish to sell us. We’re not willing to buy the charter school boloney anymore. If our policymakers want to continue getting our votes, they may need to give in to what the people actually want and stop trying to lead us over the cliff and feed us to the sharks.


Funny How School Closings Are Merely Accidental Racism. Never Intentional.

Students Protest School Closings At Chicago Public Schools Headquarters


It’s funny. When you close schools serving minority students, they tend to move away.


That’s what’s happening in Chicago.


In the last seven years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 49 schools serving mostly students of color. And from 2015 to 2016, alone, the city lost 12,000 black residents.




Who would have ever thought that cutting funding to services for minorities might make them get up and leave?


But God forbid you suggest this is intentional!


These are just disparate facts. There is no conceivable causal link between making life intolerable for people and their leaving.


When has that ever happened before?


The Great Migration (1919-1950) when hundreds of thousands of blacks moved from the deep south to the shores of Lake Michigan looking for better opportunities?


Well, sure, but when else has that ever happened?


You can’t connect one dot to another.


That would just be rude.


Yet that’s just what Chris Kennedy, a candidate vying to run against Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on the Democratic ticket, did this week.


He said that Emanuel is running a “strategic gentrification plan” to intentionally push black residents out of the city.


“My belief is they’re being pushed out. This is involuntary. That we’re cutting off funding for schools, cutting off funding for police, allowing people to be forced to live in food deserts, closing hospitals, closing access to mental health facilities. What choice do people have but to move, to leave?” Kennedy said at a press conference.


“And I think that’s part of a strategic gentrification plan being implemented by the city of Chicago to push people of color out of the city. The city is becoming smaller and as it becomes smaller, it’s become whiter.”



The establishment immediately pushed back against him.


The Chicago Sun-Times couldn’t find any fault with Kennedy’s facts, but they called his interpretation “irresponsible.”


Emanuel’s office likewise issued a press release likening Kennedy’s claims with those of Republicans like Rauner and President Donald Trump, even though both of those individuals would be more likely to champion a plan to kick blacks out of Chicago than criticize it.


Kennedy’s remarks simply echo what black Chicagoans have been saying for years.


FACT: Since 2001, 72 Chicago schools have been closed or phased out. Ninety percent of the students affected are black.


And now Emanuel is suggesting closing four additional schools – all from the predominantly African American Englewood community.


Sure, eventually they’ll be replaced by one new school, but only after at least a year without any high school in the area.


When the new school finally opens, the neighborhood will be less black and better suited to what? Gentrification!


Jitu Brown, National Director for a broad based collective of civil rights organizations called Journey 4 Justice, estimates that more than 30,000 people of color have fled Chicago since Emanuel took office.


Brown led a group of community members to sit in at the Chicago Board of Education today to protest the proposed closings.


“Rahm wants to close successful black grammar school to make room for upper income families! We have proof! That’s why we sit-in,” he tweeted.


Back in 2013, Brown broke down his argument at a hearing before the US Department of Education:


“To deny us the right to improve our schools as community institutions is a violation of our human rights. To destabilize schools in our community is a violation of our human rights. To have communities with no neighborhood schools is a violation of our human rights.  . . . We are America’s mirror. Do you have the courage to accept what you see?”


Kennedy really isn’t saying anything different. He’s just echoing the concerns of the community he wants to represent.


“I don’t know what you can say when the strategic plan for Chicago Public Schools suggest that the entire community of Englewood can go an entire year without access to a high school,” Kennedy said this week.


“What are you saying to the people there? No one’s going to move there who’s got a high school kid. And anybody with a high school kid has to think about what they’re going to do. It’s just a device to empty out the community.”


The problem is not limited to Chicago. It’s emblematic of public school policy nationwide.


From 2003-2012, in New York City, 117 schools were closed. Sixty-three percent of the students affected were black.


In 2008, 23 schools were closed in Washington, DC. Ninety-nine percent of the students affected were black, Latino or Hispanic.


Since 2005, in Detroit, 130 schools have been closed. Ninety-three percent of the students affected were children of color.


And one and on.


We intentionally segregate students based on race and class, then allocate funds accordingly. Richer whiter students get all the resources they need. Poorer blacker students get crumbling schools, narrowed curriculum until their schools are shuttered and they’re forced to either move away or put up with fly by night charter schools.


Look at what happened in New Orleans.


After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the state took over 107 of the city’s then-128 public schools, removing them from local control of the residents. The majority of these schools were turned into charters, closed or simply never reopened – a move affecting 90 percent of black students and only 1 percent of white students.


Karran Harper-Royal, a New Orleans parent and cofounder of the national group Parents Across America, argued at the same hearing in 2013 before the US Department of Education that the result was racist.


They call it school choice, but parents don’t have choice when 80 percent attend charter schools – some of which run a lottery enrollment process, she said. As a result, parents are forced to apply to multiple charter schools to ensure their children have somewhere to go to learn.


Your choice is between charter schools – 79 percent of which are rated “D” or “F” – and 15 state run public schools that are all rated “D” or “F,” she said.


“African-American students are more likely than their white counterparts to experience schools that are at risk of being closed down, phased-out, turned around or co-located,” Harper-Royal said. “To guarantee me a seat in a failing school system is not ‘choice.’ It’s racist is what it is.”


This is the reality for poor and minority students across the country.


It’s refreshing to hear a Democrat brave enough to actually speak the truth about it – especially since Democrats have been as apt to preside over these corporate education reform policies as Republicans.


Closing black schools and keeping white ones open is not an accident.


Neither is continuing school segregation, the proliferation of charter and voucher schools and the continued insistence that the only way to hold educators accountable for actually educating is high stakes standardized testing.


These are all choices that result in winners and losers.


It’s time we recognized that. If we really want to champion civil rights and equity for all, we need to stop promoting racism as school policy and pretending to be surprised at the results.

Puerto Rico Teachers Plan One-Day Strike to Protest Corporate Education Reform


Welcome to sunny Puerto Rico.

The ocean is a gorgeous cerulean blue. Palm trees wave gently in the salty breeze. And in the distance you can hear percussion, horns and singing.

The protest has begun.


Residents of this United States territory have been fighting freshman Governor Alejandro García Padilla’s efforts to close public schools, privatize those left and shackle teachers to the same corporate education reform schemes that are crippling schools on the mainland.

This Tuesday island educators are asking parents not to send their children to school. Teachers plan to conduct a one-day strike to protest legislation that could be passed the same day to further cripple the Commonwealth’s public education system.

“On November 17th we’ll be giving our lesson’s outside our classrooms,” says Mercedes Martinez, president of the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the teachers union.

“We’ll be in front of our schools early in the morning and at 10:00 a.m. will march from Congress to the Governor’s Mansion in San Juan. This is one of many activities that we’ll perform in defense of public education. We will not accept these precarious impositions and will fight back.”


The protest is in response to Project 1456 which would close more than 380 public schools. The government has already closed 150 schools in the past 5 years.

This would force many students into even more overcrowded classrooms. Thousands of children would have to be relocated to schools far from their homes.

But that’s not all.

The proposed legislation would also privatize 15% of those schools left standing. Unlike the mainland, Puerto Rico has no charter schools. Teachers went on a 10-day strike in 2008 which only ended after the island Secretary of Education Rafael Aragunde signed an agreement promising not to open any charters.


If privatized schools opened on the island, parents might have to pay an additional fee for services they now enjoy for free. Amenities like lunches and even tuition may have to be subsidized by parents out of pocket.

Moreover, it would collapse the teachers retirement system, Martinez says. Charter schools would not deduct employees payments to the pension system so it might not be able to remain solvent.

Project 1456 would harm teachers in another way, too. It would enact a punitive evaluation system where 20% of educators value would be based on students standardized test scores. Any teacher with a 79% or less would have two years to improve or be fired.

“Teachers will have no rights,” Martinez says.


The proposed legislation has already been approved by the Commonwealth Senate. It’s main author Sen. Eduardo Bhatia is pushing for the House to fast track it for approval.

Discussions began in the House last week.

Protesters were there on Wednesday. They stood up in the government chamber and walked out en mass when it was brought up for discussion. Eighteen of them wore white T-shirts spelling out the message “Our Schools Are Not For Sale.”


Inside the House, presidents of private universities testified in favor of the measure.

“Obviously they want to become administrators of charter schools on our island,” Martinez says.

Outside the building, protesters held their own emblematic hearing on the matter. Community members, teachers and parents testified in the open air about how this legislation would hurt children. They ended with a symbolic vote against it.

Puerto Ricans are not alone in this fight.

Jitu Brown, a community organizer from Chicago and Director of Journey for Justice Alliance traveled there to stand in solidarity with those fighting for their schools. Brown participated in a 34-day hunger strike in his hometown a month ago to protest Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close the last open enrollment school in his neighborhood.

“This beautiful, breathtaking place is marred by ugly U.S colonialism and privatization of public services on steroids!” says Brown of Puerto Rico.

“I was blessed to spend time with powerful people fighting for a better world. Big ups to your warrior spirit, discipline and hospitality! Where we struggle, we can win! If we don’t struggle, we are guaranteed to lose.”


The plight of Puerto Rican communities also inspired support from the Badass Teachers Association, a group of more than 56,000 educators, parents, students and activists.

“The Badass Teachers Association stands in strong solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico who are fighting for the very foundation of their democracy – the survival of their public school system which is under assault by the 1% who seek to close it up and deny Puerto Rican children a right to an education,” says Executive Director Marla Kilfoyle.

Protesters are getting the word out. They’ve already handed out thousands of fliers. Today they plan to drive in a large caravan across the island.

“We’ve got a bunch of cars with sound equipment,” Martinez says.

“We will go to all the communities near our schools in different regions asking parents to support the strike on the 17th.”


Much of the the island’s financial woes are imported from the mainland. Puerto Rico is besieged by vulture capitalists encouraging damaging rewrites to the tax code while buying and selling the territory’s debt.

Hundreds of American private equity moguls and entrepreneurs are using the Commonwealth as a tax haven.

As a result, tax revenues to fund public goods like education are drying up while the super rich rake in profits.

Officials warn the government may be out of money to pay its bills by as early as 2016. Over the next five years, it may have to close nearly 600 more schools – almost half of the remaining facilities!


“That’s why the Teacher’s Federation and other teacher unions allied together to fight back against the attack on our education system,” Martinez says.

“As you can see, we’ve been busy.”

If Project 1456 is passed by the House, the union is considering a general strike.


Of the 135 schools closed in just the last two years, Commonwealth Secretary of Education Rafael Román had originally proposed shuttering 200. The remaining 65 were only kept alive because communities occupied the buildings and refused to let the government step in.

Protesters stormed the Senate in October when Bhatia first introduced Project 1456.

“Senators decided to approve it without discussion because they did not want to listen to teachers chants and indignation,” says Martinez.

“Senator Bhatia has become the symbol for privatization under this administration. He has never been in a public School. He has no bond with it. He’s a demagogue.”

NOTE: This article also was published on the Badass Teachers Association blog.