The charter school industry’s unregulated, taxpayer-funded business model of education is a “fiscal and educational disaster,” concluded a report that is the result of investigations, visits and interviews over the course of a year.
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The Network for Public Education, in its 48-page report, detailed the consequences of loosely regulated charter policy and the effects that charters are having on public schools. Whatever the benefits charter schools offers to the few, the overall negative consequences must be addressed, stated the report, titled Charters and Consequences.
The report continued:
Charter schools can and have closed at will, leaving families stranded. Profiteers with no educational expertise have seized the opportunity to open charter schools and use those schools for self-enrichment. States with weak charter laws encourage nepotism, profiteering by politicians, and worse.
For all of the reasons above and more, the Network for Public Education regards charter schools as a failed experiment that our organization cannot support.
Despite its assessment of the charter school experiment, NPE does not recommend the immediate closure of charter schools. “We recognize that many families have
come to depend on charter schools and that many charter school teachers are dedicated professionals who serve their students well. It is also true that some charter schools are successful.” Rather, the organization calls for the absorption of charters into the public school system. “We look forward to the day when charter schools are governed not by private boards, but by those elected by the community, at the district, city or county level.”
Charters and Consequences used 11 issues-based stories based not only on research but also interviews with parents, community members, teachers and school leaders familiar with the effects of charters on their communities and neighborhood public schools. The report found that charter mismanagement, fraud and the use of unproven educational practices is not a partisan issue. It discovered problems in the “blue state of California,” where 20% of charters are either online schools or storefront schools where students pick up school work.
The report also examined the 2015 decision by the Philadelphia superintendent to turn over control of John Wister Elementary School to the Mastery Charter School chain. In prior years, parents in struggling schools were able to vote on whether their neighborhood school would be turned over to a charter company. Instead, residents recounted being lied to by the company about the money it would invest in Wister. Parents criticized Mastery’s marketing campaign that pitted parents
against each other, leading to picketing and heated meetings.
After evidence was uncovered that the district had used the wrong enrollment numbers and that the school had made academic progress, the superintendent rescinded his decision. That decision was overturned, however, when the School Reform Commission, a five-member board appointed by the governor and mayor, voted at a meeting to return control to Mastery. “Few Wister parents were present, believing that the issue had been resolved. The room was filled, however, with pro-Mastery parents who cheered. . . Despite cries of conflict of interest, the lack of notice to the
public, and even objections by the mayor of Philadelphia, the SRC gave its final approval to turn Wister over to Mastery Charter Schools.”
Charters and Consequences offers a section that asks “are charter schools public schools?” In response, the report stated, in part, “Charters, regardless of their original intent, have become a threat to democratically governed, neighborhood public schools, and questions about their practices, opacity, and lack of accountability are increasing, as their numbers grow.”
NPE’s report concluded by recommending that legislation governing charter schools include:
- An immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools.
- All due process rights for charter students that are afforded public school students, in all matters of discipline.
- Required certification of all school teaching and administrative staff.
- Complete transparency in all expenditures and income.
- Annual audits available to the public.
- Requirements that all properties owned by the charter school become the property of the local public school if the charter closes.
- The transformation of for-profit charters to non-profit charters and of for-profit management organizations to non-profit management organizations.