To amuse myself this month I have been following Pioneer Institute’s “lift the charter cap” road show which began with a trial run commentary by Chieppo and Gas at, of all places, the Providence Journal. Pioneer has been touring the cloud since, dropping down in Massachusetts towns like Milford to plea the cause for charter schools – but only in the state’s 10% lowest performing communities! There are no charter schools in Milford.
There is so much misleading spin coming from Pioneer Institute on so many levels I’m having difficulty in knowing just where to begin. In Tuesday’s, Huffington Post, Pioneer’s Kate Apfelbaum cited, once again, the “Stanford CREDO Study”, never mentioning that it has been discredited because the CREDO study is flawed and everyone knows it. I think Pioneer believes that if you say something enough times people will believe it is true! “Credo, Credo, Credo”…don’t they think anyone will check, maybe read it? In a review published by the National Education Policy Center, Andrew Maul and Abby McClelland, research experts and statisticians, have criticized the CREDO study for the weakness of its data and methodology. Charter school student’s performance was compared to the scores of hypothetical “virtual” traditional public school students that were invented by the study authors.
CREDO researchers created a “virtual twin” for the students attending Traditional Boston Public Schools. Then they used a computer to figure out how that charter school kid MIGHT have performed if he had attended a Traditional Public School. This “virtual twin” research method has been criticized by those researchers who are really in the know, why? Because it is highly subjective and easily manipulated as a point of reference! Even Charter School Queen and Advocate Jeanie Allen, from the Center of Education Reform says this Stanford CREDO study is bunk!
Then there is the cost burden that charter schools create to the sending urban district schools. Boston Public Schools will pay $108,661,809. in tuition for two-dozen charter schools in the city! Quest, a REAL grassroots group of traditional Boston Public School parents, notes, “the majority of 128 schools face significant cuts in staff, in programs and in resources to support the education of more than 57,000 of our children.” Boston charter schools will receive 42% of the total amount of Chapter 70 aid to service 12.3% of charter students, where is the fairness to the 87.7% of Boston neediest, “not the right fit,” students remaining in our traditional public schools? These are the kids that cost more to educate!
As a Boston Public School Teacher, I found it odd that Representative Alice Peisch was advocating for charter schools in Boston, and going against Senator Chang-Diaz (whose district actually has charter schools that are seriously impacting the traditional schools) and the Joint Committee on Education who were ready to table this. It was especially disconcerting when I found out there are no charter schools or “turnaround/spinning” schools Wellesley, Weston and Wayland, the toney suburban communities that Representative Peisch represents! Since Ms. Peisch is such a fan of charter schools, I would have thought when Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School wanted to open a regional charter clone in Weston, that she would be right up there advocating for it, given Weston’s large 12.6% Asian population. What happened to their “parent choice?” Why didn’t Representative Peisch advocate for a charter school for them?
Peisch didn’t advocate for charter schools in the toney suburbs because Massachusetts State Legislators have come to realize the negative impact that charter schools and “turnaround” have created in our state, and especially in urban school districts like Boston. Elected officials in these suburban communities are saying no to charter schools, in the communities they represent. They understand how a charter school would drain resources from their traditional public schools in their “unified” school district!
The Andover School Committee said no to STEAM Studio charter’s proposal even though a school committee member proposed it! The Andover School Committee believes that funds available for education should be invested wisely in their existing schools in order to move Andover’s Strategic Plan forward. Well, guess what, Boston Public Schools has a Strategic Plan too, that we won’t be able to actualize if charter schools are allowed to proliferate!
Let me be clear, charter schools make people money! It isn’t about our elected officials saving SOME urban children from low performing district schools. This is about sacrificing the kids in our urban cities, to keep charter schools from proliferating in suburban communities! It is about rich people making and keeping their money. Massachusetts has been awarded $11,786,000 Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) and $130,000,000 in New Market Tax Credits (NMTC). This money could uplift our urban areas if used for housing, community and business development, but charter schools are an easier investment vehicle to sell. Think about it, not much venture capital risk here in Massachusetts, which is considered to be the Number 1 school system in the nation! Or Boston Public Schools, which is considered the Number 1 urban school district in the United States!
Increasing the cap on charter schools will do nothing to reduce poverty in our urban areas. It will just create a windfall for philanthropic “consulting” groups whose goal is to “strategically” place hedge fund investors charitable donations where they can benefit financially from recycling money back into their foundations as tax credits!
What everyone needs to know is that If a charter school fails, and DESE revokes the schools charter, the state cannot claim ownership of the building or school assets because they are owned by the charter schools foundation! QZAB interest free bonds and Federal New Market Tax Credits, provide a 39% Tax Credit to investors, and this money is used to build and renovate charter schools. The charter school foundation owns the building the school resides in; the school then pays rent to the foundation. Down the line, nothing prevents the charters foundation from under-resourcing the school, which will lead to its failure, if it determines a better use for the building!
Finding this out gave me a whole new perspective on “The Boston Compact.” Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Boston $3.25 million dollars to promote a compact between Catholic, public, and charter schools. As part of accepting the grant the City of Boston agreed to lease or sell several of its school buildings to charter schools! What benefit is that to Boston Public Schools? In fact, that could create a whole new set of problems for Boston Public Schools in the future if DESE doesn’t renew a failing schools charter! Where would they put the students returning? The Catholic schools did not agree to this, they have a moratorium on selling their school buildings to charters.
Massachusetts’s charter schools had 20 years to prove themselves to be “beacons of light” and “innovation.” They have only proven themselves to be segregation academies, pushing out any student who would threaten their test averages, students with disabilities, and English-language learners. Look what is happening in Boston and other urban cities. Please do not impose charters on our urban school districts, think of the 87.7% “have not’s” in Boston! Charter schools have failed the public trust. Our State Senators shouldn’t add their names to that list. It’s ugly! Don’t be hoodwinked, Keep the Cap!