Charter Schools are Set-up To Fail

by EdwardBerger on December 18, 2014

For many years, I have written about the charter school movement. As you know, I label the majority of these schools “Partial Schools,” because they deprive students of a comprehensive, interdisciplinary curriculum. They discount the need for teacher certification and experience, and they duplicate many services and programs the taxpayers are already providing.

What happened that created a chaos of charter schools?

The Koch-ALEC machine saw ‘school choice’ and ‘charter schools’ as a vehicle to carry out their mission. Within a short time they were able to control legislatures, by-pass or infiltrate the state school boards, and set up appointed (not elected) boards/organizations to “supervise” charter schools. These new boards stripped away accountability.They opened the gates to a chaos of partial schools with little accountability to children and taxpayers.

In most states, the politicians in charge followed the direction of corporations controlled by The the American Legislative Exchange Council. (ALEC), and the parent of this organization, the Koch-funded continuation of the John Birch Society and its tenets. (Google ALEC, and verify this information). These powerful, well-funded politicians have several guiding tenets:
1) To destroy public education (not just district schools).
2) To destroy all forms of worker representation (associations, unions);
3) To “privatize” public tax dollars for their own use and profit
4) To end Representative Democracy in America.

Charter schools, like district schools, are set up to fail

Charter schools are organized to provide access to public tax dollars. We understand that, but they are actually designed to siphon dollars away from the majority of students in district schools and thus damage district schools and eventually shut them. Too many operate for profit, or to take money from public funds for personal or corporate gain. Too many cheat students because they operate “partial schools.” An example: Virtual Schools.

Many partial schools are set-up to destroy the teaching profession by discounting the importance of experience, certification, professional standards, and associations.

Charter schools disperse dollars citizens pay for the education of children, to banks and financial managers, management corporations, Real Estate purchases and leases, individuals serving on their governing board, nepotism, curriculum re-packagers, religious groups, and testing corporations. Public tax dollars too often go to individuals (often through the corporations they run) who gain “ownership” of these ‘public’ schools and their resources, and milk them for profit.

Charter schools are given a limited amount of dollars for each child served. A large percent of this per-capita does not go toward the educational program, it goes to replicate the services the public is already paying for. Taxpayers pay twice. Children are cheated.

Waiving experience and certification for teachers allows charters to hire low-paid, unqualified individuals like Teach For America kids, friends, relatives, or idealistic certified teachers at starvation wages. This in no way serves children, but it saves money that may keep the doors open. These conditions eventually kill the charter school.

The reality is that the sincere and dedicated individuals who operate charter schools are set-up to fail, thus carrying out the mission of those who hijacked the charter school concept as part of their Ideologically-driven attempt to destroy public education.

So, why do we have charter schools? Can we get back to their original purpose?

I was part of a community team of parents, educators, businessmen, and retired professionals who worked for almost a year to define and create the charter school movement, and a model K-8 charter school. We worked closely with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. We created and opened the second charter school in our state in 1994.
Based on the strict educational guidelines then in place, we established that charters schools could be formed to demonstrate new and better approaches to education if they adhered to the Comprehensive Curriculum, and the Essential Skills for each discipline. We believed that these new approaches, when proven, could be exported back into the public district schools.
Each charter was given up to five years to prove their approaches. If they could not show that their changes were more effective for the children served, they would be closed. We developed evaluation methods and specific teaching measurements focused on Mastery Criteria Checklists.
The operating guidelines for charter schools* were adopted and put in place by the State Board of Education. *The accountability guidelines for K-6 schools are different from those for middle schools. High schools require different guidelines.
The first charters followed these strict accountability guidelines, but as noted above, the movement was taken over and accountability deleted.

What must happen?

It is time for a merger of successful charter schools with their public school districts. It is time to support the creative and risk-taking educators who, at great personal and financial risk, have stepped outside of the often petrified public education systems and demonstrated other effective ways. It is time they, and their
proven ideas, join and strengthen district public schools, and that they stay in leadership roles as proven change agents.

It is time to close the floodgates of public tax dollars that are being drained from our district schools. We must stop replicating the resources the public is already paying for, including all operation and capital dollars, into programs that better serve children. It is time to democratically elect all school governing boards. It is time to confront those whose clear mission is to destroy public education and the teaching profession. We educators and taxpayers must unite to save America’s great public education system.

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According to researchers at the Harvard University, Edmond J. Safra Center For Ethics, I live in a State that is home to the most political corruption in America. I am 75-years old and have been an educator all my life. I have taught, mentored, pioneered, and researched. I am a leader in experiential education. I have been involved in Arizona education since 1991.

What have I experienced? Great things at all levels Pre-K-University! Dedicated teachers and administrators constantly working to improve our schools; dedicated human beings fighting for children and quality education. They are pitted against an economic system that has created pockets of poverty which damage children and their potential for learning, and political ideologues who want to destroy or profit financially from public education.
I am witnessing first-hand the calculated destruction of Arizona public schools and the professional educators who serve our children.

Arizona is a ‘right-to-work state.’ No worker’s rights means no organized opposition to the politicians who control the State. As with other public employees, educators have no power to confront and expose abuses and those who damage our schools and children.

Arizona is a ‘one-party-rules state.’ One powerful political party controls what happens to our children and our community schools. That party is closely aligned with the religious right. Those groups gets access to the education tax dollars citizens pay. With tax dollars, they inject religious bias into the curriculum in the schools they run. Politicians in Arizona have effectively broken down the barriers between church and state.

How do they do it? Too many make profits from the education tax dollars citizens pay for our children. They do this by privatizing schools, bypassing safeguards, and taking over or eliminating elected school boards that stand in their way. They exempt, stop, modify, or eliminate accountability. They stop full audits and the release of specific information about what these profit-driven schools do to, or for children. They maintain a chokehold on information.

In Arizona, under the cloud provided by the Legislature, hundreds of millions of dollars are not accounted for. As a result of legislation, well over 600 charter schools have been created since the mid-90s. There are over 450 of these partial schools active now. Whole industries including banks and finance systems, school management services, and curriculum businesses have risen to get a ‘free’ piece of the public education pie. Public tax dollars are being diverted into private ventures. All of these services come out of the tax dollars that citizens are led to believe educate children.

Services already provided by law in our public district schools are being duplicated at great cost to taxpayers. In Arizona, ‘schools- of-choice’ spend valuable resources on rent and purchases of buildings. This results in public funding used to buy, build, or lease space. It often pays the property mortgages for private corporations and crooked individuals who will end up owning the buildings. What a great deal for kids. Right?
Besides siphoning off teaching money for buildings, kids are not getting the comprehensive curriculum and services that our district schools must provide. Partial schools cheat children by not exposing them to at least 10 disciplines taught by certified and vetted professionals.

Teachers take the hit. After you take out profits, management fees, Real Estate commissions, and rent, there is not much left for quality professional teachers and supplies. Cut personnel costs and you increase profits. One sees why the political machine ruled that trained and certified teachers are not necessary in ‘partial schools’. Interesting to note that the lie, “Bad teachers are responsible for school failure,” is a cover up for, “Cutting teachers with training and experience increases profit.”

Arizona is a state controlled by ALEC (Alliance Of Legislative Executive Councils). Much of the Alliance’s agenda comes from the teachings of the radical right-wing John Birch Society, the legacy the Koch Brothers continue to force on America. The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and the Arizona political machine advocate the destruction of public education in America, the end of workers’ rights and worker organizations, and the right to access public tax dollars for their own profit. They call it “privatizing.”

Much of ALEC’s work is to bypass democratic processes including elected school boards. In Arizona, those in political power have made certain the Superintendent of Public Instruction is not an educator, but rather one who follows their directions. They ensure this by controlling the primary elections and bankrolling the agents they put in charge of public education. In a recent contest, their candidate was exposed (by his own doing) as a bigot and a thug. He lost in the primaries. An educator ran to replace him. The educator was defeated by a completely unknown, non-educator who was elected because of her party, not her qualifications.

More often than not, legislators allow ALEC teams to write the legislation they will introduce and vote in. This process subverts the democratic process of representative government. It is in fact, corporation representation.

Today, all across the state, public district schools which serve over 85% pf Arizona kids are being intentionally starved to destroy them. Communities are seeing the Legislature intentionally deprive them of the necessary funds to serve all children and to follow Federal and State laws. In many areas, (Phoenix for example) the Legislature is supporting segregation, allowing the establishment of “special” partial schools for children of color. “Separate but unequal,” is the idea.

District public schools are struggling to serve the children in Arizona. They do not fail because of bad teachers or difficult students. They struggle because the support they need to excel is intentionally bled off by Arizona politicians. This environment is conducive to those who profit from access to our education tax dollars. These beneficiaries are private corporations in the guise of innovation, data mining, and selling unnecessary tests and teaching materials created by outfits like Pearson PLC: For profit, not for kids.

The ideological assumptions of those who try to destroy public education – or to profit from the funds provided for children – have been proven wrong and harmful. Even with crooked politicians, the facts must get through.

In Arizona, few speak against the corruption. That must end.

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