Mike Clark of the Times Union editorial board says charter schools are public schools, and they don’t deserve the criticism they can get. He is either profoundly ignorant or complicit in the privatization agenda, but either way, he is wrong and let me explain how.
Can you sell a public school and make a huge profit? No, but in south Florida an Imagine Charter school recently sold for 19 million dollars to a hedge fund outfit who sees “tremendous growth in the sector.”. This school had received PECO or maintenance and upkeep money from the state which undoubtedly increased the value of the school. Did the sellers kick back some of their windfall, to the public? No, the answer is no.
Charter schools can pick who they and they know who through the application process where they ask about income, arrests, and other socioeconomic factors. Now you might be thinking what about the lottery that charter schools are supposed to have if they have too many applicants. I asked the Duval County School Board what oversight site they had on the lotteries to make sure they are done fairly, and they replied “none, charter schools conduct them on their own”. Public schools, meanwhile, have to take whoever shows up at their doors.
After an expose in the Palm Beach Post about Charter Schools USA hiring subs and temps, I asked DCPS for information on the teachers in the city’s charter schools:, how many were temps, subs, and average years of experience. They told me once again that was information they did not collect or keep. That hiring was up to the charter schools.
A chief complaint of charter schools is they council out students with behavior problems, or academic issues. You hear all the time that students arrive back too public schools from charters after the money counts or before testing begins.
School boards have lost the ability to say no to charter schools. Mandarin, in Jacksonville, has ten public schools and nine charter schools. Mandarin is a fairly affluent area of town where all the public schools received A or B grades from the state. It doesn’t need one charter school, but since charter operators see dollar signs, they have moved in en masse, and DCPS is powerless to say no except in the most extreme situations, because charter operators can appeal to the state board, which rubber stamps their approval. If a district still says no and goes to court, the legislator has made it so they will be on the hook for the charter operator’s legal fees. Most boards have given up fighting because the game is rigged against them.
Speaking of the game, this past year, Tallahassee allocated 158 million in PECO funds to the state’s 650 plus charter schools and zero PECO dollars to the states 3,000 plus public schools. Then in Jacksonville, republican state legislators inserted millions in the budget for two charter schools operated by their donors. All this has happened as Tallahassee has starved our schools for over a decade.
Many charter schools are for profit, and there is “tremendous growth in this sector”. What happens is a so called non profit secures a charter, and then contracts to a construction company to build the school and a management company to run the school., iIn the case of Charter Schools USA, all three share the same office.
Charter schools pay rent that is often above market value to the management company that runs them, and it is here, friends, where charter companies rake in money hand over fist.
What do you need to open a charter school? A degree in education? A history of running a school? An idea for some ground breaking innovation? No, none of that, all you need is to be able to fill out a couple applications. Then you don’t even need much money because there is so much public money out there in the form of grants from Tallahassee and the Trump administration who want to replace public schools.
Then finally, charters by and large serve fewer children in poverty, so much for saving children from their zip codes, and fewer ESOL and ESE students because its hard to make money off of them.
I guess the bottom line is charter schools bottom line is to make money, not to educate children, you can’t say that about public schools.
So no, Mike, there is plenty to criticize and be outraged about. there is plenty to criticize. Charter schools are a blatant example of crony capitalism and in reality are nothing more than publicly funded private schools that have to take the Florida assessment.