The total amount spent on Public Education in the United States each year is $620 Billion, which certainly is an attractive lure for people seeking to make money. The Federal Government spent $3.3 Billion “of taxpayer money creating and expanding the charter school industry over the past two decades, but it has done so without requiring the most basic transparency in who ultimately receives the funds and what those tax dollars are being used for, especially in contrast to the public information about truly public schools.“
Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education was “calling for a 48% increase in the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) quarter-billion-dollar-a-year ($253.2 million) program designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools—an initiative repeatedly criticized by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls.” in 2015.
The United States Department of Education under George W. Bush and then under Barack Obama “knowingly awarded charter grant to states with no statutory oversight of charter authorizers and schools as the grant applications are evaluated based on how much “flexibility” from state laws charter schools enjoy.
This lack of oversight, which is a design feature rather than a bug, is a recipe for disaster for far too many American school children, and for taxpayers, when large chunks of the money end up either missing in action or in the corporate coffers of charter school “management organizations” exempt from democratic control.
Federal charter school funding has expanded 60-fold since its inception in 1995, and—despite statements by ED and others of regret regarding enormous amounts squandered by incompetent or greedy charter school operators—very little has been done by the government to require strong financial controls to protect the educational opportunities of kids attending charters and to protect our tax dollars from rip-offs and waste.“
Arne Duncan, the darling of many Democratic political leaders, has throughout his career wrapped himself in the mantle of ending the education disparity for people of color. It is of course curious, but certainly not exceptional, that this ardent advocate of Charter Schools, never attended any public school. Duncan joins many other prominent “charter school advocates” in this distinction of never having attended a public school, including Billionairess Betsy Devos, Trump’s Secretary of Education and the ubiquitous Bill Gates. I find it disturbing and curious that so many of the biggest names behind the Charter Schools Movement never attended a public school.
A major part of the rationale behind Charter Schools is that they will provide “better educational opportunities” for people of color and people in the lower economic groups. Arne Duncan’s Mother for instance ran the “Sue Duncan Children’s Center, an after-school program primarily serving African-American youth in the nearby Kenwood neighborhood.
In 1992, [Duncan’s] childhood friend and investment banker John W. Rogers, Jr., appointed Duncan director of the Ariel Education Initiative, a program mentoring children at one of the city’s worst-performing elementary schools and then assisting them as they proceeded further in the education system. After the school closed in 1996, Duncan and Rogers were instrumental in re-opening it as a charter school, Ariel Community Academy. In 1999, Duncan was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas.” From there on the Arne Duncan career became inextricably intertwined with the Charter School movement and it has served this child of privilege quite well.
The detail provided for Arne Duncan is meant to provide perspective upon the majority of th ose who are the guiding lights of the Charter School movement, because they are primarily children of privilege, who never attended public schools and do derive great financial benefit from the Charter Schools movement. They have gathered some ersatz “liberals” into their fold by claiming they are ALL about educating the under-privileged, but given the current $620 Billion pot of Public Education gold they seek, as usual it is ALL about the money.
The claim that the Charter Schools movement represent a boon to people of color becomes suspect when one realizes that the roots of the Charter School Movement trace back to the segregation of America’s public school system. In 1954 the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 declared that “state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation, insofar as it applied to public education.“ That landmark SCOTUS decision caused turmoil throughout the United States, but most especially in the South, where “Jim Crow Laws” based upon the specious doctrine of separate but equal, maintained a segregated society with Black people being grievously oppressed.
All over the Southern States, a private school movement began, often being religious-based, that in effect re-introduced school segregation. Running schools is an expensive proposition and so it wasn’t long before these “private schools” began through various tricks of legislative legerdemain, trying to get their hands on public financing. This is the beginning and the basis of the Charter Schools movement in the U.S.. Originally, the proponents of funding private schools with public funds were conservatives, using sub-Rosa racism for votes. Somewhere along the line it occurred to some monied entrepreneurs that there was money to be made if they could tap into the goldmine of public school funding. At that point, no doubt with the aid of skilled PR operatives they began selling Charter Schools as the way out of poverty and at the same time began propagandizing Teacher’s Unions as an enemy of education. So effective was the entrepreneur’s propaganda that they even got some liberals on board, no doubt with the added incentive of lucrative campaign funding. There we have the growing behemoth that is the Charter Schools movement, with its demonstrably false promise of better, more color-blind education.
The truth is that in study after study the Charter Schools promises and claims of a better, more efficient system have proven false. These problems were touched upon in the first three paragraphs above. The reality is that the failure of the Charter Schools promise is proven and this specious movement has really just become another financial con game, perpetrated by the One Percent against the majority of Americans. The evidence of this deception is so widespread that I am unable to present it all here, but the survey of sources via the links below amply proves my point:
At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice (New York Times)
The High Turnover at Charter Schools (New York Times)
Teacher Attrition in Charter vs. District Schools (CRPE–Center on Reinventing Public Education)
High teacher turnover in charters: Does student achievement suffer? (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
A Revolving Door (Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff)
Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools (Vanderbilt University)
It’s harder for charter schools to keep teachers (My San Antonio)
Teacher Attrition in Charter Schools 2007 (NEPC–National Education Policy Center)
Professor: Why Teach For America can’t recruit in my classroom (Washington Post)
Teacher turnover harms student learning (University of Michigan)
Teacher turnover affects all students’ achievement, study indicates (Stanford University)
High turnover reported among charter school teachers: With so many charter school teachers moving on each year, concerns arise about retaining quality educators and how stability affects student performance. (Los Angeles Times)
Charter Schools Battle High Teacher Turnover (Texas Tribune)
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