The state budget that Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law earlier this month includes a provision requiring the State Board of Education to authorize two online charter schools to serve K-12 students by next fall.
In drafting the budget provision for the virtual charter schools, lawmakers ignored many of the education board's recommendations. For example, lawmakers allowed the online schools to receive both state and local funding for students, while regular charter schools receive only state money. State law also lets the online schools enroll more students and have more students drop out than educators wanted.
Bolding mine. When your pet project (K12 Inc) has so many shortcomings and faults it can't meet even the minimum standards of being authorized, what do you do? You either lower the standards or you force the authorizing body to acquiesce via government fiat. Adding to the ever-growing list of behaviors exhibited by our General Assembly that closely resemble that of Third-World tyrants.
(H) Transportation Funding
391 (1) The state department of education shall disburse state transportation funding to an
392 authorizer for each of its public charter school students on the same basis and in the same
393 manner as it is paid to school districts. An authorizer shall disburse state transportation
394 funding to a public charter school in proportion to the amount generated by the school’s
396 (2) A public charter school may enter into a contract with a school district or private provider
397 to provide transportation to the school’s students.
Bolding mine. There's nothing in the language of this (or any other) cookie cutter model legislation requiring charters to actually provide transportation in lieu of said transportation funding, and North Carolina currently doesn't require charters to provide transportation for students:
The latest bad idea coming from Jeter and Lewis, is preposterous, and represents nothing less than a slap in the face to the taxpayers of North Carolina. Jeter’s clumsy idea is to block the public reporting of charter school salaries by name. He introduced the bill. Lewis defends it by saying allowing the release of the information creates a “hostile work environment.”
Clearly, Jeter heard from some charter school folks who wanted a favor because they desired to keep salaries hidden to some degree (they’re still public, but not with names attached) and so he just moved ahead. But in March, when the Charlotte Observer requested names and salaries from 23 charter schools, Jeter was fine with it, saying, “You can’t pick and choose when it’s convenient. If they want to play in that arena they need to play by public law.”
Apparently you can pick and choose when it's convenient. As far as that "hostile work environment," if charters want to pay their teachers a low salary while throwing good money at somebody's nephew who never enters a classroom to teach, I guess that might get a little hostile. Another term for that is "quality control."
A state screening board’s recent decision to reject most charter school applications has sparked tension over the role private management companies should play in public education. “The plan was to have operators come into the state like they did in Louisiana and other states and quickly affect the public school choice landscape for the better and in quantity,” said Hawkes, a founding board member of two Guilford County charter schools run by the for-profit National Heritage Academies.
Hawkes says “mom and pop operations” like Sugar Creek can’t force change fast enough. He argues that national chains are needed to make school districts “feel threatened and up their game,” leading to better schools for all students.
That might have been "the plan" of hardcore privatization extremists, but I can guarantee it wasn't the plan of the majority of the voting public. Which is why Berger and Tillman have remained silent on this issue. But thanks for the heads-up, it makes our choice much clearer.
"You must comply with all conditions contained in the Charter Agreement or be subject to revocation of your charter," the letter says. "Regardless of news reports stating that the agency is ‘now’ saying that the salaries of charter school employees are public record, this has always been a requirement of the Charter Agreement." The letter from charter Director Joel Medley came in response to the Observer’s effort to get salaries from 21 Charlotte-area charter schools, which are independent public schools run by nonprofit boards.
The Observer, which has long published salaries from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other public bodies, requested the charter school salaries in March. So far eight schools have provided all the information requested, and four have provided salaries but withheld some or all employee names. Eight have not responded or say they are still reviewing the request.
Once again, Conservative "watchdogs" are casually sniffing their butts on an issue they would otherwise be barking their heads off about, if it were (standard) public schools holding back salary information. The next time one of the RWNJ brigade quotes a superintendent's salary as a reason public schools are "failing," tell them, "At least we know how much they're costing us."
“Charter staff are not employed by a public school board but by a private nonprofit board and, as a result, their salaries are not subject to public records law the way public school board employees’ or state employees’ salaries are,” said DPI spokeswoman Vanessa Jeter.
Cohen, N.C. Press Association lawyer Amanda Martin and CMS attorney George Battle III say she’s got it backward: There’s no legal protection for any information in the files. “It’s the privacy act. It’s not the publicity act,” Cohen said. “If they’re subject to the public records law, then nothing is private.”
It will be interesting to see if the Legislature clarifies this in the upcoming Short Session, as there seems to be a consensus from both sides of the aisle these salaries should be made public. That said, you have to question the relevance and integrity of an oversight Board that is so conflicted:
Charter school boards, unlike their school-district counterparts, are not elected. They begin as self-selected groups of like-minded people with a vision for a school. First they must form a nonprofit group to apply for the charter; during the planning stage – which often takes more than a year – they are not public bodies.
That changes when the N.C. Board of Education awards a charter, which entitles the board to get state, local and federal money for education. With that money comes public obligations, from holding open meetings to reporting academic data.
Old habits die hard, which is why these boards should operate as transparently as possible, even before the taxpayer dollars kick in. Getting feedback from parents and other members of the public during the planning stage could be crucial in the survivability of the school itself; an "idea" only becomes a "good idea" after it's been picked apart and put back together again. Those who would shield their ideas from exposure are merely exposing their lack of confidence. And their lack of skills, too:
In documents filed in court and with the state charter school office, Mack, vice chair Jennifer Winstel and consultants hired by the StudentFirst board say Handford overstaffed the school, put family members on the payroll, failed to pay bills and document expenses, arranged big raises for herself and Moss, and let the school fall into academic disarray.
“Once operations were underway, we met monthly and received glowing reports from the school’s leaders – reports that we would later discover were mischaracterizations at best and outright fabrications at worst,” Mack wrote in his Feb. 19 response to Medley.
The court case is shaping up to be a big hot mess, but there's no doubt the financial stability of the school is in jeopardy. And the way the Legislature has designed oversight for these entities, taxpayers have very little control over how their money is spent.
As the nation’s largest online education company, K12, Inc. runs publicly-funded charter schools in 33 states, a robust business that accounts for 86 percent of the $848 million in revenue the company reported earnings to investors in its 2013 annual report. But with financial success has come criticism for lackluster student performance at several of its schools, including graduation rates of just 22 percent in Colorado and a Florida investigation that found a handful of teachers taught some classes they weren’t certified in.
Reports of poor performance have continued to plague the company, with the Lawrence, Kan. school district cancelling a contract with the company this month after the virtual high school posted a graduation rate of just 26 percent. The other two high schools in the district graduated more than 90 percent of its students.
But what K12 is lacking in capability and effectiveness is more than made up by their skills at manipulating the political process:
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