‘Public’ Charter Schools. Do They Really Think We’re That Dumb?

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You’ve heard the term “Public Charter School.” The whole thing is based on the “Charter School Growth with Quality Act.” And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s a piece of model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), serving its special interest corporate member donors bent on making public education private, no matter that “public” may be in the charter school title.

An ALEC Website extols the virtues of the bill and claims it would “expand quality public education opportunities for all children by establishing a state Public Charter School Commission to serve as an ‘independent’ statewide charter authorizer.” There are nearly 20 (and counting) public charter schools in my home state of South Carolina.

Allow me a cursory Deep South case study. It’s a new public charter school that will remain nameless. Its application was approved by its sponsor, the South Carolina Public Charter School District (SCPCSD), almost the exact ALEC title from the website. The new “public” charter school just opened Monday, the 18th. It shares space with a big ole’ church that describes itself as a “Cathedral.” Wasn’t it Jefferson who wrote about that “Wall of separation?”

Speaking of the First Amendment; the makeup of the new school’s Charter Planning Committee includes an ordained minister who is also an officer of the applicant organization. Another member of the Committee is a music minister, noted for serving as music coordinator for the “March for Jesus” rally of 15,000 participants, whatever that was. A third member has her master’s degree from a Baptist Theological Seminary and helps lead a children’s ministry at a local Baptist Church. Yet another CV emphasizes that the lady has “having served at First Baptist Church for many years.” It’s also noted that a real estate saleslady is actively involved with her church. That’s a whole lot of religion considering the state’s charter school act defines a charter school thusly:

(1) A “charter school” means a public, nonreligious, nonhome-based, nonprofit corporation forming a school that operates by sponsorship of a public school district, the South Carolina Public Charter School District, or a public or independent institution of higher learning.

Let’s get nonhome-based out of the way first. A virtual charter school is the quintessence of home-based. That’s where the instrument of instruction, the computer, is located. If a virtual charter school is K through 12, the state is telling you that a five or six-year-old can boot up and handle everything on his or her own. That’s nonsense. Adults in the home must help. You might want to call it nonhome-based, but you’d be wrong.

Nonreligious? Interesting, when one of the founders of the applying organization is an ordained minister and the applicant organization has the word “Faith” in the title. Nonprofit? Somebody profits. The South Carolina law insists that if an outside management company is brought in, it must be non-profit. Alan Singer’s HuffPost Politics blog recently pointed out a nonprofit charter school executive who hauled in nearly a half-million dollars for her oversight troubles. Singer cites other examples in the $330,000-$499,000 range.

Non-profit means nothing. The new school is doling out a lease payment of $108,000 a year according to records. That’s over a million in a decade. Nonprofit?

The applicant is a 501 (c)(3) incorporated in Texas and founded by the two women behind the South Carolina facility. Both are listed as Executive Directors of the applying entity. Paid Executive Directors? One founder writes that the intent is to build charter schools around Texas and the country. They’re on their third Texas application.

The name of the Texas school will be the same as the South Carolina School. One lady has declared herself as CEO and Superintendent of the South Carolina school in the local paper. Another article calls her the Executive Director. Her associate from the applicant organization is also her business partner in a t-shirt and screen-printing business that displays at charter school functions. They are also going to apparently hold leadership positions in both the Texas school and the South Carolina school simultaneously. At least that what two applications infer. My Texas source tells me both were either fired or forced to resign from their most recent charter school employment. One of the school leaders once declared bankruptcy according to her Texas application. Due diligence, anyone?

Let’s get back to the enabling South Carolina legislation, originally adopted in 1996 and updated periodically until very recently. By definition, the law describes a charter school as a public school. But, for the most part, it’s not a public school with its own unique limited district. In South Carolina, the entire state is considered a “district” for charter purposes. There are two other “district” definitions, but they’re in the minority. Most public charter schools fall under the state district. Actual public schools have their own unique districts.

That means a single state district public charter school can vacuum students up from any number of school districts. The public charters draw their funding from federal categorical funding and South Carolina state sources. Here’s how the line-item funding from H 3710 reads: “2013-14 the South Carolina Public Charter School District shall receive and distribute state EFA funds to the charter school as determined by one hundred percent of the current year’s base student cost, as funded by the General Assembly multiplied by the weighted students pupils enrolled in the charter school, which must be subject to adjustment for student attendance.”

Even though the amount (about $3,500) is significantly lower than dollars for public schools, it’s still a good chuck and it’s still taxpayer money. Interesting that red states like South Carolina never have enough money to support teachers and public education in general. One federal funding source for the public charter schools is Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s pet project “Race to the Top.” That’s 4 billion divvied up among all schools. Duncan is a huge supporter of the free market and charter schools. Another federal source is a revolving loan program.

There’s more. The public charter schools can also get extra cash from the school choice millionaire and billionaire crowd. It’s in the legislation: “The governing body of a charter school is authorized to accept gifts, donations, or grants of any kind made to the charter school and to expend or use the gifts, donations, or grants in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the donor.”

And if parents and/or guardians of a given public school are right-wing enough, they can vote to convert their school to a public charter school by filing an application with the local school board of trustees. A two-thirds vote is required and public becomes public charter without moving a muscle or brick.

Yep, while we were sleeping, ALEC and the school choice money boys slipped your Republican state legislators enough ALEC “all expenses paid “vacations” and campaign money mickeys to ensure that it’s just a matter of time before the public loses all control over public schools.
The solution can be found November 4th under “D.”

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15 Replies to “‘Public’ Charter Schools. Do They Really Think We’re That Dumb?”

  1. When LA passed a charter school law a few years ago which was intended to funnel money to parochial schools, not one of the lawmakers or Jindal thought of adding accountability language to the bill. After LA citizens discovered what Jindal and his buddies had done, they were outraged. I’m a retired teacher, and I can attest to the loops RW state lawmakers force public school teachers to jump through, and a biggie is accountability for student achievement. A religious school which was eligible for funding in LA under the new law gave students videos to watch instead of providing instruction by teachers. Most of the school’s employees don’t hold degrees in any field of education. After the outrage began, Jindal instructed the LA State Supt. to lie to citizens about the new law. Some citizens are suing Jindal about the law. A GOPTPer who voted for the bill said she wouldn’t have had she known non-Christian schools could receive funding, too.

  2. We are so tired of Republicans submitting legislation written by corporations for corporations by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). All valid research shows that taking funding out of public school and giving it to Charter Schools only hurts our children and our children’s future. This should be illegal and definitely unconstitutional to give our tax dollars to private schools especially with no public oversight.
    5-5-14: Petition: Tell Congress: Don’t fund charter cheats! http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/tell-congress-dont-fund?source=c.em.cp&r_by=10449893
    BAD – REPUBULICAN LEGISLATION H.R. 10: Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act Summary: To amend the charter school program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 5-5-14 https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/hr10
    ALEC – REPUBLICAN Illegitimate Educational Model Bills – Privatizing Schools and Higher Education bills here. http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Public_Educa

  3. This is of course quite insane. The obvious choice if to only give moneys to public schools. Not public charter schools. We know just like the 501 groups, these schools are going to cheat

  4. Snyder has pulled the same carp here in MI. The Detroit Free Press did a report calling on charter schools to be as accountable as public schools are for test scores and student achievement. Snyder’s response was to mumble about making ALL schools accountable, but to start with public schools. In other words, leave the charters alone and let them screw the kids and their parents while the owners make wads of cash to contribute to Snyder’s campaign. This is insidious and so very damaging to this country. The answer, indeed, is to vote (D) for every office.

  5. In England our RW government has started what’s called Free Schools- that anyone can set up anywhere. Funded by al ot of government money. Most have been deemed inadequate by School Inspectors who are paid by ……….the RW government. You couldn’t make it up.

  6. “Charter schools are funded by the government and must follow policies set by the government. While some charters have apparently successfully positioned themselves as “private schools for free”, they are not. Many in the media have fallen in with this and frequently contrast charter schools to public schools which is false dichotomy. Charter schools are public schools and should more accurately be referred to as “public charter” (as apposed to “public district”).”

    http://teaching-abc.blogspot.com/2012/08/charter-schools-are-public-schools.html

  7. We need teachers,interacting is much more important than watching a film, pinpointing what each child needs. The right wing does not care about anyone’s children but their own. Nothing to make a buck(well many,many bucks). They do not endorse any program unless it directly affects them with a huge profit. Beware,beware the righties are everywhere. If they want to change a system that has been around for years you know their hands are in the pockets of the pot for their profit.

  8. ignatz, unfortunately they do think we’re that dumb because they pay hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure it by controlling our media, leaving only a few token media outlets here and there to still give the appearance that we have a fourth estate. We don’t.

    We must never forget how these RW/Libertarian moneyed interests think: an educated populace is as bad for them today as Black people learning to read was back in their ancestors’ day.

    Enter corporate media with well-trained wordsmiths, and the dumbing-down of America continues unchallenged. This has got to stop, and the only way to do that is to avoid those outlets. They can continue funding them for only so long without profit – a la Rupert Murdoch’s business model – before they have to fold.

    Then a new “bait ‘n’ switch media outlet is born; starting progressive and slowly becoming just another propaganda outlet.

  9. no, not that dumb, just that lazy. just that uninformed. you really have to have been involved in the charter school thing, to get it:

    my grandchildren won the lottery when the first charter school was opened in our area during the first rush of excitement. here’s what we all learned: #1 they are skimming the most motivated students and involved parents from the public school system. #2 it doesn’t matter how motivated the parents are, if the student doesn’t meet the school management’s “metrics” that student and their now disillusioned parents are bounced back to public school after the state money for that student has been allocated to the charter school. #3 charter schools do not give a rats ass about learning. about teaching. about the future. it’s all about the profit to the investors.it always has been, and always will be.

    The greatest thing this nation ever did was public education. the first thing pioneers did was establish a school.

  10. just an observation: but this site chooses to accept ad money from some strange bedfellows. Whacky Jackie Walorski of Indiana’s ads scream for a rebuttal. This article with ads from the very organization it purports to out. bit hard to swallow……….

  11. Public Charter Schools? That’s quite the oxymoron the morons at ALEC have come up with.

    What’s next, ‘Charter’ Public Schools? How about ‘Charter’ Catholic Schools?

  12. I’m not sure you understand that not all charter schools are like that.I personally am a senior in a public charter school. Yes, its public as in everyone is welcome. Charter schools are safe havens for people who need smaller class sizes to learn and a more family like environment. In a school of 150 we can deal with bullying and other issues that would go unnoticed.Charter schools do amazing things for students.They provide safety and an school that they can change according to their needs.I have a dear friendship with all of my teachers, including ones I’ve never taken classes from.I highly suggest touring a charter school before you complain about funding them.Don’t bash on something you don’t understand.If anything charter school need MORE money.Charter schools focus on more than just the athletes and therefore need more funding to pay for art supplies, computers, instruments and updated software.

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