Charter schools

North Carolina politicians: day dreaming on the citizen's dime

The constant consumption of North Carolina's political news can be debilitating. Whether splayed in print across the kitchen table or viewed online, there are times when it is necessary to push the chair back and take a walk around the block; sometimes for days and non-stop. Walks are a good way to clear the clutter. A chance to invigorate, cleanse the mind, renew optimism, and look forward to North Carolina and a new model. But like clowns at a circus or the three headed man or woman along the midway, politicians and their collective attempts to garner attention never takes a day off. So yesterday when I opened the paper, it was if the nightmare had never stopped.

Atlantic on the political influence and mismanagement of charter schools

The Atlantic has an article about a chain of 120 charter schools throughout the US associated with an Islamic cleric. They're not being investigated for links to terrorism, but because of possible fiscal mismanagement and other serious issues:

...the Ohio State Board of Education has launched its own probe of the nearly 20 Gülen-associated charter schools in its state. As part of the investigation, four former teachers from Horizon Academy (the particular name of the Gülen charter school chain in Ohio) gave testimony. The teachers mentioned issues as disturbing as cheating on state tests, unsafe building conditions, overcrowding, and even sexual misconduct. ...

NC taxpayers subsidize discrimination

In addition to keeping the salaries of for-profit charter school employees secret, the NCGA's charter school bill allows discrimination against LGBT students.

Back in June, after a two-day battle over amendments that would have banned charter schools from discriminating against students on the basis of sexual orientation, House Republicans advanced a compromise provision that said "charter schools shall not discriminate against any student with respect to any category protected under the United States Constitution or under federal law applicable to the states."

That amendment was added to the bill on a 115-0 vote.

But when the measure went to conference committee for a compromise deal, Senate negotiators successfully pushed to have the clause removed.

Rep. John [sic] Hardister, R-Guilford, the lead House negotiator, said he agreed to the change out of concern that "it could have broad effect." Asked for clarification, he couldn't explain further.

Charter school in Charlotte lets students down before it opens

What happens when a charter school fails students before the school opens? You wind up with a lot of upset parents and kids, especially when the school was intended to serve 9th and 10th graders. High school is tough enough without finding out six weeks before school begins that your plans have changed.

From the Charlotte Observer:

Carolina STEM Academy, one of 11 Charlotte-area charter schools that had been approved to open in August, notified families this week that there aren’t enough students to make that happen.

“Unfortunately, we are disappointed to share the news that, due to enrollment and continuing difficulties with closing (on the facility), Carolina STEM will be unable to open this year,” a letter from the board of directors said.

Even less charter school accountability

We know that charter schools take public funds, yet don't need to meet the same obligations or standards of accountability as public schools.

Recently the NCGA tried to remedy one little piece of that: the Senate passed, and the House was about to pass a bill that would require charter schools to disclose the same salary information as public schools. That is, charter schools that take public money would have to obey public records laws.

Makes a lot of sense, right? That's why, at the last minute, Rep. Charles Jeter introduced an amendment to block the disclosure of the names of the charter school employees.

Majority of approved charter schools not ready for upcoming school year

Racing to the starting line:

Nineteen of the 25 charter schools approved to open across North Carolina in August must do more to show state officials they have the students, classrooms and plans in place to pull it off, according to a report being presented to a state advisory panel Monday.

Charlotte was also home to the troubled StudentFirst Academy, which opened in August 2013 and closed in April. The state approved its charter despite noting shortcomings in the application. By November, the state was investigating reports of mismanagement and academic problems. Details about undocumented expenses, inflated administrator salaries, unpaid bills and middle school students napping during the school day emerged in later legal documents.

You know what they say: build it and they will come. And then they will take a nap.

Jerry Tillman's latest assault on public education

Charter schools are public schools, so say their supporters whenever someone says that the charters are robbing public schools of funding.

Charter schools are run by private nonprofit boards that are authorized by the state to receive public education money. They received $304.7 million from the state this year, a number that will grow as more charter schools open in August.

School districts, which have no control over charters, are required to pass along a share of county education money based on the number of students enrolled. Mecklenburg County taxpayers contributed $23 million to charter schools this year.

And so they are, technically. They're just like other public schools, except:

Charters will blossom in NC ... or else!

It was SRO today at the Senate Ed Committee meeting, and as my momma used to say, Sen Jerry Tillman was full of piss and vinegar! He paced the front of the room as the chair called the meeting to order and seemed disgruntled to see so many people packed into his meeting room.

He angrily told the head of the charter school application committee that if he did not see charter school applications getting approved as fast as he wants them approved, then he would pass the bill (SB 793) he has waiting in the wings. His tone suggested he would then shove the changes he wants to see down the committee's collective throats. He was especially upset that some out-of-state, for-profit charter management companies had their applications denied here in NC---he commented that if they had been approved to do business in other states, they were good enough to do business in NC. (Does our insurance commissioner know that?)

NC charter schools highlighted in report on fraud and waste

Via Salon, we have a link to a new report co-authored by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education that examines the lack of oversight of charter schools. The report looked at just 15 states, pulling news stories, criminal complaints, audits, and other sources.

The report "found fraud, waste and abuse cases totaling over $100 million in losses to taxpayers" and noted that, due to lack of oversight, “the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.”

Three NC charter schools are highlighted in the report:

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