THESE BALTIMORE CHARTERS ARE INDEED PRIVATE BUT THE MARYLAND ASSEMBLY PASSED LAWS THAT ALLOWED THEM TO ACT PRIVATE WHILE BEING CATEGORIZED AS PUBLIC.
This is not legal folks and if people would simply challenge this in court it would go away. People are doing so all over the country. The important thing is that these charters are not going to be as good as the non-profit private schools-----they are going to be national corporate charter chains.
Obama and Clinton neo-liberals are pushing the idea that building a separate apprenticeship structure for the masses while eliminating all funding for higher university education is a good thing and they just invented this apprenticeship idea in the US even as it is simply union apprenticeships that existed most of last century. THEY ARE LYING TO YOU AND ME.
As you see below the apprenticeships will broaden to any worker in the US and it will be funded by the Federal, state, and local tax revenue that is being starved from our public K-university. If you do not see what is happening below happening in the US you do not understand that it is the US installing these policies around the world.
Australia and New Zealand used to be the most progressive in the world but were taken by neo-liberalism as well. Below you see what the goal of these US Federal apprenticeships will be------it will expand to train the immigrants brought in large number to the US to work on the manufacturing sites of global corporations brought to the US as JOB CREATORS.
Video: Training Chinese workers
19 December 2009.
Good training schemes are often useful to bring some workers up to speed with manufacturing practices.nzte.govt.nz|
By New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
Below you see how many legal challenges are occurring in the US and Baltimore does charters more corporate than other places----with a corporate school board. I was at a Maryland Assembly Baltimore Committee meeting on this subject and a representative from Homewood Development Corporation stated ' WE RUN SEVERAL SCHOOLS---THEY REPORT TO US'. Indeed, they have their gang signs on several buildings. Mind you, all those schools needed to be successful was funding and resources----no takeover needed. For those not knowing Homewood is a branch of Johns Hopkins' development corporations and they do create profit for Hopkins.
Charter Schools are NOT Public Schools!
Charters are privately managed entities whose only claim to the word public is the fact that they drain public funds. Roughly a dozen of court cases have ruled that charter schools are not "public entities." Two well known examples include the following: The California Court of Appeals (2007-01-10) which ruled that charter schools are NOT "public agents." [SEE LINK BELOW http://j.mp/wGmLtB] The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010-01-04) which ruled that charter schools are NOT "public actors." [SEE LINK BELOW http://j.mp/x4Y9KT]
The courts aren't the government entities that have stated incontrovertibly that charters are private entities. So have other authoritative agencies. The US Census Department expressed difficulty in obtaining information from charter schools because the are NOT public entities. [SEE LINKS BELOW http://j.mp/ytdtYv http://j.mp/14i5jg2]
The National Labor Relations Board joins a host of other government agencies that have unequivocally ruled that that charters are "private entities." [SEE LINK BELOW http://j.mp/ZdWEeg] We understand in the light of all the scandals and bad press (http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/) that supporters of lucrative charters are desperate to paint them as public schools, but outside the corporate spin cycle that is the the school privatization camp, charters have been found to be anything but public.
Charters are one in the same with the 501C3s or other organizations running them. Here is an excerpt from one of the court cases cited above: "The Court determined the charter schools did not qualify as "public entities" under the CFCA. (Id. at p. 1203, 48 Cal. Rptr. 3d 108, 141 P.3d 225.) Because they competed with the traditional schools for students and funding, neither did the Court find them to be "governmental entities" exempt from the UCL's restrictions on their competitive practices." Moreover, nonprofits are PRIVATE sector.
In many cases, businesses and industries are actually far more regulated than 501c3s. This excerpt from a Census Department Document sums this up: "A few "public charter schools" are run by public universities and municipalities. However, most charter schools are run by private nonprofit organizations and are therefore classified as private." The language courts and government entities use is precise and unambiguous. Charter charlatans have created a lucrative quasi-public market niche. The schools are public so long as they can garner public funds and cash in on lucrative real estate deals. However, as soon as a family, community member, educator, or other persons outside of those profiting form charters need to seek legal or civil remedies against the charter school sector, then they are conveniently NOT public entities. Charters. No oversight, no democratic controls, but lots of opportunities for swindlers to make boatloads of cash and plutocrats to push propaganda instead of pedagogy.
In Maryland we have the Maryland ACLU leading what is the most privatized dismantling of public education all of which violates equal protection laws for education and housing. As you see below lawyers across America are starting the fight against these Wall Street start ups.
Below you see current court rulings across the nation and we see the courts making the distinction between public schools and private charters. Each time the court rules these charters do not have to abide by public school standards because these students have the 'choice' to leave these schools and attend a REAL public school. As parents in Baltimore know there are fewer if any choices between attending a charter or a public school-----most public schools are being changed to charters. So, there will be no alternative for students 'dismissed' from charter schools and be sure----these charters are not meant to be public for long----your Clinton neo-liberal and Bush neo-con is just pretending they are for now as they transition public schools out of the picture and into the hands of Wall Street.
THE DESIGNATION OF CHARTER SCHOOLS AS PUBLIC IS ILLEGAL AND NEEDS TO STOP!
Are Charter Schools Upholding Student Rights? By Rosa K. Hirji – January 14, 2014 American Bar Association
Charter schools promote the idea that, like public schools, they are tuition free and open to all students. However, public schools cannot be selective about the students that they enroll and keep. On the other hand, charter schools—according to recent court decisions from the California Court of Appeal and a U.S. district court in Hawaii—have the discretion and ability to dismiss students in a manner that would be unconstitutional if done by a public school. As it becomes more apparent that students in charter schools do not enjoy the same rights as they would in public schools, the “public” nature of charter schools is called into question.
Scott B., a 14-year-old student with a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was dismissed from his charter school by letter from the principal for bringing a knife to school and showing it to another student. There was no hearing and no finding to support the decision by the charter school’s board of trustees in the one-sentence dismissal letter. On June 14, 2013, the California Court of Appeal in Scott B. v. Board of Trustees of Orange County High School of the Arts ruled that charter schools are exempt from California law requiring due process hearing procedures for students undergoing an expulsion from their local public school.
The decision in Scott B. allows charter schools in California to dismiss a student unilaterally, leaving that student with little protection against unfair removal. The court held that the due process hearing protections of the California Education Code do not apply to charter schools because Scott was dismissed rather than expelled. According to the court, a dismissal does not raise due process concerns to the same degree as expulsion because after being dismissed, the student is free to enroll in the local public school. Unlike public schools, the court observed, a charter school is a school of choice.
After Scott B., California charter schools can simply characterize an “expulsion” as a dismissal and thereby avoid ever having to provide an expulsion hearing.
Following on the heels of Scott B., the U.S. District Court of Hawaii in Lindsey v. Matayoshi granted a motion for summary judgment against a 14-year-old student, RFL, who was expelled from her charter school for posting comments about another student on her Facebook page. RFL did not receive a due process hearing. School administrators offered to assist RFL in enrolling in a local high school, but her parents declined in part because of distances and travel time. The court in Lindsey held that while RFL had a property interest in education, that interest did not include a right to a certain type of education or curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a school close to her home. Because RFL had the ability to return to the local public high school, the court held, she suffered no deprivation in her property interests; therefore, she was not entitled to a due process hearing for her expulsion from the charter school.
The idea propounded by the courts that a dismissed or expelled charter school student can enroll in a public school the next day does not always reflect reality. For example, the California Department of Education advises school districts that once a student is expelled from a charter school, “[t]he district may choose to treat a student expelled from a charter school in the same manner as a student expelled from the district.” The San Diego County Office of Education instructs school districts to review charter school removals to determine whether the district would have expelled the student and, if so, to enroll that child in an alternative school. Emily Alpert, “San Diego’s Expulsion Purgatory,” Voice of San Diego, Apr. 11, 2013. The court decisions do not take into account the disruption caused to the child, the family, and the local public school when a student is forced to relocate midyear. The decisions further do not anticipate the consequences of this almost unfettered authority by charter school administrators to remove students, particularly the consequences on students of color or low-income students.
Expulsion hearings are designed to afford a fair process to the student undergoing an expulsion. This right is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, under the Due Process Clause. California laws governing expulsions are also designed to ensure that the disciplinary sanctions are proportionate to the offense. These protections are critical in light of reports by civil rights groups that zero-tolerance discipline has impacts on students of color and students with disabilities at disproportionately high rates.
After Scott B., the only recourse for the student victim of an unfair dismissal from a charter school in California is to go to court. In contrast, those who allege wrongful expulsion from a public school can access an informal and low-cost administrative process that allows for appeals to the county board of education. Courts will review “dismissals” from charter schools but only if they are “arbitrary or capricious” because there is no underlying right to a hearing. According to the court in Lindsey,the parent would need to produce evidence to demonstrate that the alternative school was significantly inferior to the charter school before a deprivation of property interest could even be contemplated. These burdensome standards make it much more difficult for children and parents to challenge a charter’s dismissal.
Scott B. and Lindsey will fuel the ability of charter schools to be selective about which students they retain, allowing them to deliver better outcomes. Evidence of such selectiveness includes reports of charter schools screening out students with special education needs (in particular, those with severe disabilities) and demonstrating higher rates of suspension and expulsion of students of color than public schools. According to Reuters, “across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.” Stephanie Simon, “Special Report: Class Struggle—How Charter Schools Get Students They Want,” Reuters, Feb. 15, 2013.
Even the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, whose policies have encouraged the establishment of charter schools, acknowledges that “[i]n many cities . . . charters are substantially more likely to suspend and expel students than other public schools.” Valerie Strauss, “Arne Duncan Praises, Slaps Charter Schools,” Wash. Post, July 3, 2013.
In Los Angeles, charter schools have come under heavy criticism for turning away students with disabilities. Howard Blume, “Charter Schools in L.A. Unified to Get More Special Education Money,” L.A. Times, Jan. 5, 2011. This is comparable to concerns raised by communities across the country. A study by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles expressed alarm at the role of charter schools in creating a higher level of segregation among students who are African American:
Charter schools, in many ways, have more extensive segregation than other public schools. . . . Charter schools attract a higher percentage of black students than traditional public schools, in part because they tend to be located in urban areas. . . . As a result, charter school enrollment patterns display high levels of minority segregation, trends that are particularly severe for black students.
Civil Rights Project, Choice Without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards (Jan. 2010).
In fact, until very recently, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education (OCR) did not collect data on civil rights outcomes for students in charter schools. OCR will release, for the first time, data related to charter schools for the 2011–2012 school year in early 2014.
While charter schools that receive federal funding must still comply with federal civil rights statutes--such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act—the lack of oversight by a public board of education means that it is left to students and parents to enforce the laws independently through expensive litigation. The reality is that parents who can afford such actions will more likely locate a better school or have political clout within the charter school that allows them to avoid the worst violations.
Although not raised in the case, a dismissal from the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) was likely a tremendous loss of opportunity for Scott B. It appears, from the data, that OCSA is a unique and elite charter school—and a selective one. Ed-Data, Fiscal, Demographic, and Performance Data on California’s K–12 Schools. OCSA receives up to $5 million a year in corporate and private donations. OCSA also receives taxpayer money to support its students. OCSA is ranked as one of the top 10 schools in California, and it touts an academic program that aims to produce high-achieving and motivated scholars. OCSA is also racially and economically exclusive. Half of the students enrolled at OCSA are white, whereas white students comprise only 2.8 percent of students enrolled in the Santa Ana School District, where the charter school is located. Similarly, 6.4 percent of OCSA students are eligible for free and reduced meals, compared with 75.7 percent of students enrolled in the district. The court in Scott B. failed to consider the implications of the ability of a racially and economically selective school to remove students of its own choosing to maintain exclusivity, if that were its inclination.
The structures that allow charter schools to exist are marked by the absence of protections that are traditionally guaranteed by public education, protections that only become apparent and necessary when families and students begin to face a denial of what they were initially promised to be their right. The decisions of Scott B. and Lindsey may encourage charter schools to push certain students out and make it easier to deny them the benefits of a publicly supported education. The perception that charter schools are open to all students is being called into question by increasing evidence that children who are disadvantaged by a disability, poverty, or being a member of a minority group, or who have been accused of an offense, may not have the same access to charter schools as those are not.
I keep reminding citizens who do not care about this privatization because of race or class issues -----
THIS WILL BE COMING TO YOUR COMMUNITIES AS BALTIMORE IS ONLY A PLACE TO BUILD A PLATFORM TO EXPAND ACROSS THE STATE OF MARYLAND!
Wall Street and their Clinton neo-liberal and Bush neo-con pols are only starting in cities because these underserved communities have no leadership or voice----the people that could help are busy trying to profit from this privatization. Please come out and shout against what is happening in urban areas because this is not just for underserved schools----
DON'T FORGET----AN INJUSTICE FOR ONE BECOMES INJUSTICE FOR ALL! WAKE UP!
Sadly, even Maryland's Education Associations are stuffed with O'Malley Clinton neo-liberals----other states still have functioning education advocacy!
The education data noted in this article from Stanford University----Stanford is the neo-conservative think tank pushing these privatized education policies and has made a fortune patenting these privatized policies. just as Johns Hopkins. So, be sure to know who creates the data----this article is long but please glance through!
Charter schools and the future of public education
New Jersey Education Association
It’s time to refocus public policy on providing excellent public schools for allWritten
by Stan Karp
Somewhere along the way, nearly every teacher dreams of starting a school. I know I did.
More than once during the 30 years I taught English and journalism to high school students in Paterson, I imagined that creating my own school would open the door to everything I wanted as a teacher:
- Colleagues with a shared vision of teaching and learning
- Freedom from central office bureaucracy
- A welcoming school culture that reflected the lives of our students and families
- Professional autonomy that nourished innovation and individual and collective growth
- School-based decision-making that pushed choices about resources, priorities, time and staffing closer to the classrooms where it matters the most.
I think of this experience often as I follow the polarized debate over charter schools. I know there are many committed charter school teachers who share the dream of teaching in a progressive, student-centered school. But I also know the charter school movement has changed dramatically in recent years in ways that have undermined its original intentions.
While small schools and theme academies have faded as a focus of reform initiatives, charters have expanded rapidly. They raise similar issues and many more. In fact, given the growing promotion of charters by federal and state policymakers as a strategy to ”reform” public education, the stakes are much higher.
According to Education Week, there are now more than 6,000 publicly funded charter schools in the United States enrolling about 4 percent of all students. Since 2008, the number of charter schools has grown by almost 50 percent, while over that same period nearly 4,000 traditional public schools have closed.[i] This represents a huge transfer of resources and students from our public education system to the publicly funded, but privately managed charter sector. These trends raise concerns about the future of public education and its promise of quality education for all.
The origin of charter schools Charter schools have an interesting history with origins that are often overlooked. The concept of charter schools was promoted by Albert Shanker and the American Federation of Teachers in New York City in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were originally conceived as teacher-run schools that would serve students struggling inside the traditional system and would operate outside the reach of the administrative bureaucracy and the highly politicized big city school board. Charters also drew on early rounds of small school experiments initiated by teachers or community activists, often as alternatives to the city’s large comprehensive high schools. [ii]
But within a few years, Shanker grew concerned that the charters and small specialty schools were fragmenting the district, creating tiers of schools serving decidedly different populations with unequal access. He also feared they were weakening the collective power of the teachers union to negotiate over district-wide concerns and policies. So he pulled back his support for charters, at a time when there were still very few, and focused on the standards movement, which became the primary reform framework for many teacher union leaders.
But charters continued to grow slowly, and beginning with Minnesota in 1991, states began to pass laws to promote the formation of charters, partly as a model of reform and partly to build a parallel system outside the reach of both teacher unions and, in some cases, the federal and state requirements to serve and accept all students as the public system must do. Gradually this charter movement attracted the attention of political and financial interests who saw the public school system as a “government monopoly” ripe for market reform.
In the past decade, the character of the charter school movement has changed dramatically. It’s been transformed from community-based, educator-initiated local efforts designed to provide alternative approaches for a small number of students into nationally-funded efforts by foundations, investors and educational management companies to create a parallel, more privatized school system.
Charter laws are different in each state, but in general charter schools are publicly funded but privately run schools. Few justify the hype they have received in films like “Waiting for “Superman,” and those that do are mostly highly-selective, privately-subsidized schools that have very limited relevance for the public system. It’s like looking for models of public housing by studying luxury condo developments.
How do charter schools measure up? The most complete national study of charter school performance by CREDO, a research unit at Stanford University that supports charter reform, found that only about one in five charter schools had better test scores than comparable public schools and more than twice as many had lower ones. [iii] Unlike most charter schools, traditional public schools accept all children, including much larger numbers of high needs students. In most states charters also do not face the same public accountability and transparency requirements as public schools, which has led to serious problems of mismanagement, corruption and profiteering.
Invariably beneath accounts of spectacular charter success lie demographics that reveal fewer special needs children, fewer English language learners and fewer numbers of children from the poorest families. This hasn’t stopped the cheerleading for charters coming from some quarters, but it does undermine their credibility as a strategy for improving public schools overall.
Take, for example, the most recent report on New Jersey’s charters that CREDO produced in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). The press release announcing this long-delayed study claimed it showed that “New Jersey charter public schools significantly outperform their district school peers.” [iv] Education Commissioner Chris Cerf echoed these claims, saying “the results are clear – on the whole, New Jersey charter school students make larger learning gains in both reading and math than their traditional public school peers.”[v]
But a closer look at the report raises familiar issues (even putting aside the dubious premise that equates school success with test scores). The report showed that 70 percent of the New Jersey charters studied had the same or lower math scores as the traditional public schools they were compared to; 60 percent scored the same or lower on language arts.
The charters with the best results were clustered in Newark, which includes more selective “No Excuses” charters. These schools serve lower numbers of the highest needs students and have relatively high rates of attrition compared to traditional district schools. Typically, the CREDO report failed to distinguish between levels of student need, lumping students who receive speech therapy with those facing more severe disabilities like autism as “special education” students. “Reduced lunch” students are similarly equated with “free lunch” students facing much deeper levels of poverty. [vi]
More importantly, the report fails to identify a single school characteristic aside from the different demographics of the student population that accounts for the “success” in the limited number of charters where it appears at all. The study also fails to account for the “peer effects” of mixing limited numbers of high needs students with the more selective charter population, while the highest need students are increasingly left behind in growing concentrations in district schools.
A return to segregated schools? This is where the flaws of charters as a reform strategy start to come into focus. A plan that relies heavily on serving more selective student populations is not only not “scalable,” it has a decidedly negative effect on the district schools left in its wake. Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker has found that the selectivity of Newark charters is having a predictable effect on non-charter district enrollment. Newark charters now enroll about 19 percent of all students, but serve much lower levels of the highest need students. As a result, the percentage of ELL, very poor, and severely handicapped children in Newark Public Schools (NPS) is growing, and Baker notes, “we can expect that those left behind in district schools are becoming a higher and higher need group as charter enrollments expand.” [vii]
Another Newark study commissioned by the district focused on 14,000 students being educated in the 30 highest need elementary schools in the city, both charter and district. Ninety three percent of these students were in district-run schools and only 7 percent were in charter schools. This is segregation, not reform.[viii]
A strong case can be made that the rapid expansion of charters in large urban districts like Newark is undermining their ability to equitably serve all children. This year fund transfers from NPS to charter schools will top $125 million. Even State District Superintendent Cami Anderson, a strong supporter of charters, admitted to the State Board of Education last year this was an unsustainable budget trend for the district. [ix]
In too many places, charters function more like deregulated “enterprise zones” than models of reform, providing subsidized spaces for a few at the expense of the many. They drain resources, staff, and energy for innovation away from other district schools, often while creaming better prepared students and more committed parents. This is especially a problem in big city public systems that urgently need renewal and resources but are increasingly being left behind with the biggest challenges.
None of this is meant to deny the reform impulse that is a real part of the charter movement, and no one questions the desire of parents to find the best options they can for their children. But the original idea behind charter schools was to create “laboratories for innovation” that would nurture reform strategies to improve the public system as a whole. That hasn’t happened. While there are some excellent individual charter schools, nowhere have charters produced a template for effective district-wide reform or equity.
This doesn’t mean charter school teachers and parents are our enemies. On the contrary, we should be allies in fighting some of the counter-productive assessment, curriculum and instructional practices raining down on all of us from above. Where practices like greater autonomy over curriculum or freedom from bureaucratic regulations are valid, they should be extended to all schools, without sacrificing the oversight we need to preserve equity and accountability.
The need to focus on poverty and proven reforms But the current push for deregulated charters and privatization is doing nothing to reduce the concentrations of 70, 80, and 90 percent poverty that remain the central problem in our urban schools. It’s instructive to contrast charter-driven reform with more equitable approaches. In North Carolina, reform efforts were based on integrating struggling schools in Raleigh with the schools in surrounding Wake County. Efforts were made to improve theme-based and magnet programs at all schools, and the concentration of free/reduced lunch students at any one school was limited to 40 percent or less. The plan led to some of the nation’s best progress on closing gaps in achievement and opportunity. [x]
There are many other factors that make charters unsustainable as a general strategy for improving public education. Significant evidence suggests that charters are part of a market-driven plan to create a less stable, less secure and less expensive teaching staff. Other trends reflect the efforts of well-funded groups working to privatize everything from curriculum to professional development to the making of education policy.
Nationally, charter school teachers are, on average, less experienced, less unionized and less likely to hold state certification than teachers in traditional public schools.[xi] (In a word, cheaper.) Here in New Jersey, the Christie administration has proposed lowering certification standards for charter school teachers and insisted that charter schools be exempt from the much-heralded tenure and evaluation reforms in the TEACHNJ Act passed last year. [xii]
As many as one in four charter school teachers leave every year, about double the turnover rate in traditional public schools. The odds of a teacher leaving the profession altogether are 130 percent higher at charters than traditional public schools, and much of this teacher attrition is related to dissatisfaction with working conditions.[xiii]
Charter schools typically pay less for longer hours. But charter school administrators often earn more than their school-district counterparts. Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Eva Moskowitz of the Success Academy Schools, two widely heralded charter school leaders, are each paid close to half a million dollars a year.[xiv] In New Jersey, charter school administrators are exempt from the salary caps imposed on district superintendents.[xv]
Charters raise similar issues in suburban districts. Last year, an application to open a Quest Academy charter school in my hometown of Montclair was a finalist after being previously rejected four times. If approved, the charter would have drawn over $2 million from the district budget. Quest promised to serve a small group of students with “small classes,” “individualized instruction,” and “cutting edge technology.” But it would have left students at Montclair High School with larger classes, less individualized instruction, and less cutting edge technology. It would have eroded programs and staff at a high school that sends over 90 percent of its students to post-secondary education, including over 90 percent of its African-American students.[xvi]
Parents weigh in
This is why grassroots parents groups like Save Our Schools NJ have been pushing back against unwanted charter expansion that undermines the quality and budgets of district schools. Because current New Jersey charter policies do not give a voice to local districts and voters in deciding where to open charters and how to integrate them equitably into the public system, they promote polarization among parents and pockets of privilege instead of district-wide improvement.
I’ve attended too many meetings where polarized groups of charter and public school parents are pitted against each other in contentious, at times ugly debates over resources, facilities and priorities. This polarization has its roots, not just in clashing short-term interests and an inadequate pool of resources, but in conflicting conceptions of the role parents should play in public education. For the charter movement, parents are mainly customers seeking services with no major role in school governance or advocacy for all children. But in a system of universal public education, parents are citizens seeking rights and, collectively, the owner-managers of a fundamental public institution in a democratic society.
To be sure, many of the issues that public school advocates like me criticize in charters--like the tracking, creaming, and unequal resources--exist within the public system too. But public schools have federal, state and district obligations that can be brought to bear. School boards, public budgets, public policies and public officials can be subjected to pressure and held accountable in ways that privatized charters don’t allow. In post-Katrina New Orleans, where next year virtually all students will attend unequal tiers of charter schools, there are now students and families who cannot find any schools to take them.[xvii] We cannot let that happen here.
Still, the march continues Commissioner Cerf has declared intentions to dramatically expand New Jersey’s charter sector. An NJDOE grant application to the California-based Broad foundation, a major funder of charter school networks, promised, “The percent of high quality public charter schools in New Jersey, as measured by NJDOE’s definition of high quality, will increase by 50 percent by 2014-15.” The Christie Administration has proposed allowing for-profit charters to operate in the state, permitting existing charters to open “satellite campuses” in multiple districts, and opening the door to fly-by-night cyber charters. In recent years, New Jersey’s charter approval process has been marked by inconsistency, secrecy, and scandal.[xviii]
It has become impossible to separate the rapid expansion of charter networks from efforts to privatize public education. Commissioner Cerf has spoken of replacing the current “school system” with “a system of schools.” Former deputy commissioner Andy Smarick campaigned to “replace the district-based system in America’s large cities with fluid, self- improving systems of charter schools.” Governor Christie, a longtime supporter of private school vouchers, was once a registered lobbyist for Cerf’s former company, Edison, Inc., then the largest private education management firm in the nation. [xix]
Inevitably, charter schools have become part of this polarized debate about education policy. Those who believe that business models and market reforms hold the key to solving educational problems have made great strides in attaching their agenda to the urgent need of communities who have too often been poorly served by the current system. But left to its own bottom line logic, the market will do for education what it is has done for housing, health care and employment: create fabulous profits and opportunities for a few and unequal access and outcomes for the many.
Our country has already had more than enough experience with separate and unequal school systems. The counterfeit claim that charter privatization is part of a new “civil rights movement” addressing the deep and historic inequality that surrounds our schools is belied by the real impact of rapid charter growth in cities across the country. At the level of state and federal education policy, charters are providing a reform cover for eroding the public school system and an investment opportunity for those who see education as a business rather than a fundamental institution of democratic civic life.
It’s time to slow down charter expansion and refocus public policy on providing excellent public schools for all. Using charters as a reform strategy has become too much like planting weeds in the garden. Better to tend the soil and help all public schools flower to their full potential.
Stan Karp is director of the Secondary Reform Project for New Jersey's Education Law Center. He is an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine and was a high school teacher in Paterson for 30 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.