A lack of oversight of the nation’s charter schools has led to too many cases of fraud and abuse and too little attention to equity, according to a new report that offers recommendations to remedy the situation.

The largest problems are a lack of transparency and having school managers serve on governing boards, said report author Leigh Dingerson, a consultant to the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. The institute released the report, Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight, on Thursday.

In one example, about $1.8 million in public money provided to the Cleveland Academy of Scholarship, Technology, and Leadership Enterprise was funneled to 13 shell companies associated with members of the governing board, according to the report.

Because of their autonomy from the regular public school system, charter schools in general face less scrutiny regarding finances, Dingerson said.

“There needs to be a full reporting of data and finances and a separation of governing boards from their management companies,” she said. “That would go a long, long way to cleaning up the most egregious waste of public dollars that I have seen.”

The report includes some startling examples, such as the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School in Philadelphia, which a report by a local TV station revealed was doubling as a nightclub in the school’s cafeteria at nights and weekends.

Jason Mandell, director of Advocacy Communications for the California Charter Schools Association, said his organization supports transparency. But, he said, “there is a danger of being so restrictive that you are missing the entire point of the flexibility and autonomy allowing charters to thrive.” He pointed out that public schools and districts have also been charged with financial mismanagement.

“There needs to be a full reporting of data and finances and a separation of governing boards from their management companies,” said Leigh Dingerson, author of the report. “That would go a long, long way to cleaning up the most egregious waste of public dollars that I have seen.”

Dingerson agrees that fraud can happen anywhere, but she pointed to a report that found losses of $100 million due to fraud and corruption in charter schools across the country, including a few of the 1,130 charter schools in California. The charter schools association, in a response to that report, said California law is stronger than laws in many other states.

“There are things that happen in charter and regular schools that you just can’t legislate to prevent,” Mandell said.

Still, Dingerson said, “I think there are protections that could be in place that might at least help ferret out the fraud and corruption before it goes too far down the road.”

She said other charter school problems include rules and procedures that result in excluding students. Charter schools sometimes have different enrollment and registration procedures than regular public schools that make it difficult for some parents to enroll their students. For example, the schools may require a Social Security card, barring immigrant children from enrolling. Or parents may have to travel outside the city during working hours to enroll their children, making it difficult for low-income parents, who often have less flexibility at work as well as a lack of transportation. Charter schools may require parents to volunteer, and most have a parent or student contract.

“I don’t think I’ve ever run into a charter school that didn’t require a parent/student contract,” Dingerson said. “It discourages enrollment.” It also gives the school a reason to expel students who misbehave or underperform, she said.

Dingerson said charter schools in the nation as a whole do not serve as many English learners and special education students as regular schools. Mandell agreed that in California overall there are fewer English learners and special education students in charter schools than in regular schools, “though the gap isn’t huge.” In 2012-13, California charters enrolled about 17 percent English learners, who made up almost 22 percent of the state’s population that year, he said. However, he said, charter schools in Los Angeles that are independent of the Los Angeles Unified School District serve 1 percent more English learners than regular schools. Mandell had no specifics about special education students in California charters statewide readily available, but he said the independent Los Angeles charters served about 2 percent fewer special education students than regular schools.

The report offers seven policy recommendations:

  • Traditional districts and charter schools should work together to ensure a coordinated approach that serves all children.
  • School governance should be representative and transparent. Only 10 states – California is not among them – require a parent to be on the governing board.
  • Charter schools should ensure equal access to interested students and prohibit practices that discourage enrollment or disproportionately push enrolled students out of school.
  • Charter school discipline policy should be fair and transparent.
  • Districts and charter schools should work together to ensure that facilities arrangements do not disadvantage students in either sector.
  • Online charter schools should be better regulated for quality, transparency and the protection of student data.
  • Monitoring and oversight of charter schools should be strong and fully funded by the state.

Although the Annenberg Institute’s report did not include any specific California examples, Dingerson said her research pointed to some problems. For example, the national Knowledge Is Power Program, better known as KIPP charter management organization, has schools in California. KIPP, nationally known for helping low-income students graduate college-ready, has been criticized for its high attrition rates of African-American students.

Dingerson said charter schools should offer a full range of services. For example, she said about 17 percent of charter schools in California do not participate in the federal free and reduced-price meals program even when they serve students who qualify.

UPDATED: A previous version of this story included a photo of a school that was not featured or implicated in any way in the findings or conclusions of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform report. 

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  1. Jim Mordecai 2 years ago2 years ago

    Dependent Charter Schools "Charter schools are often described as “dependent” and “independent.” While the Charter Schools Act does not recognize the terms “dependent” and “independent” when referencing charter schools, these terms have become shorthand to describe the relationship of the charter to the district. Dependent charters are considered charter schools that have been created by the district board and are an integral part of the district’s portfolio of schools. Independent charter schools are typically those charters that are formed … Read More

    Dependent Charter Schools

    “Charter schools are often described as “dependent” and “independent.”

    While the Charter Schools Act does not recognize the terms “dependent” and “independent” when referencing charter schools, these terms have become shorthand to describe the relationship of the charter to the district.

    Dependent charters are considered charter schools that have been created by the district board and are an integral part of the district’s portfolio of schools.

    Independent charter schools are typically those charters that are formed by parents, teachers, community members or charter management organizations.”

    Source: CSBA Charter School

    What is troublesome to me is that under charter school law, as I understand it, the governing board is independent of the authorizer. Whether or not a district creates something it references as the “district’s portfolio of schools” is immaterial to the fact that California charter schools are independent of their authorizer.

    Additionally, if a district has a “portfolio of schools including district schools and charter schools that district’s school board is not fully serving its district schools because charter schools under California charter law are in competition for student enrollment. The interest of charter schools and public schools in competition are often in conflict. Board members ignoring that conflict are themselves in a conflict, that is a conflict of interest.

  2. el 2 years ago2 years ago

    One of the things that concerns me about charter school oversight is the lack of accountability of its governing board. I am not certain what the exact rules are in California, but my information is that it can be basically anyone and that the community does not have the power to impact it except by electing to attend another school, or very weakly, through its governing school district. I would like to see the majority … Read More

    One of the things that concerns me about charter school oversight is the lack of accountability of its governing board. I am not certain what the exact rules are in California, but my information is that it can be basically anyone and that the community does not have the power to impact it except by electing to attend another school, or very weakly, through its governing school district. I would like to see the majority of the governing board made up of people who are resident within the geographic area, and I would like to see the community have some sort of direct say over who those people are and/or the continued existence of the charter.

    For example, the Parent Trigger provision allows a community to petition to create a charter school from a public school… but does not contain, as far as I know, a provision that allows the community to dissolve or de-charter such a school.

    Replies

    • Karl 2 years ago2 years ago

      Addressing the question about lack of accountability on a charter governing board, in California it depends on how the charter is written. The charter petition spells out how the board members are elected, and what criteria they must meet. Typically, the charter boards are comprised of all or nearly all local community members, and these members are elected from the public (not in a general election, but in an election held by the charter school board … Read More

      Addressing the question about lack of accountability on a charter governing board, in California it depends on how the charter is written. The charter petition spells out how the board members are elected, and what criteria they must meet.

      Typically, the charter boards are comprised of all or nearly all local community members, and these members are elected from the public (not in a general election, but in an election held by the charter school board each year).

      Good charters will have boards that are independent, accountable, and follow the Brown Act rules for open governance. Before sending your child to a charter, get a copy of the charter petition and read it.

      The charter law gives flexibility, which allows a much wider range of performance than a district. The best charters are much better than district schools, while the worst charters are much worse. Because of the freedoms given to charters, there’s very few things that can be ascribed to ALL charters (just like all people, or all organizations).

    • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

      El, I am not an expert in this, but my understanding of the governance structure of CA charter schools is this. There are two broad classifications of charter schools in California, district dependent charter schools and corporate charter schools. The vast majority of CA charter schools fall into the latter category, corporate charter schools, though all are considered public schools. With district dependent charter schools, the minority of CA charters, the charter school … Read More

      El, I am not an expert in this, but my understanding of the governance structure of CA charter schools is this. There are two broad classifications of charter schools in California, district dependent charter schools and corporate charter schools. The vast majority of CA charter schools fall into the latter category, corporate charter schools, though all are considered public schools.

      With district dependent charter schools, the minority of CA charters, the charter school is not a separate entity from the sponsoring school district and is thus technically another school in the district, governed by the publicly elected school board of the district. The charter status, however, exempts the school from some of the usual rules and requirements.

      Almost all CA charter schools are corporate charter schools, incorporated as tax exempt CA non-profit corporations. They may be chartered by a school district, a county office of education, or the CA state board of education. Once the school is chartered, however, the chartering district, office or the state has very little or no authority, control or participation in the school’s governance. Like all corporations, the corporate charter school is governed by its own separate corporate board of directors. Surprisingly, there is less democratic oversight in a CA non-profit corporation than there is in a for-profit corporation. In a for-profit corporation, the shareholders vote and elect directors. Non-profit corporation law does not require such democracy. Non-profit boards, including CA corporation charter school boards, are frequently self-appointed and self-perpetuating, they appoint themselves.

      The bargain which was struck in allowing charter schools in CA in the first place was that they would be given considerable freedom and exempted from much of the regulation that applies to conventional public schools, but in return they would be accountable for demonstrable excellence in outcomes. Basically the arrangement was we don’t care how you do it, as long as you do it in a way that produces excellent outcomes. In practice, the charter schools have been given the freedom and exemptions, but have not been held accountable for the excellent outcomes.

      Originally, only the chartering entity could revoke the charter of a CA charter school. In recent years, the power to revoke the charter of any charter school was extended to the California Dept. of Education. In practice, underperforming charter schools producing abysmal results continue to scam parents and students and recruit students year after year, charters intact. Unless blatant felonies are committed, there seems to be little accountability. Some charters operate very responsibly in this atmosphere of freedom and minimal accountability; many do not.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Andrew, I have never heard anyone characterize charter schools as district dependent vs. corporate dependent. Charter schools are not governed by the publicly elected school boards. I’m not sure about the percentage of EMO/CMO charters vs. independents in CA , but my understanding is that at least nationwide independent charters are still in the majority. Not sure where you’re getting this stuff from.

        • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

          Don, district dependent charters are relatively uncommon in California, but still exist and are governed by the elected school boards of the district, in addition to being chartered by the district. I am sure that there are large chunks of CA territory where the only charters are those that are not district dependent, i.e. those that are non-profit corporations with their own boards. The distinction became important when the STRS ran into issues with … Read More

          Don, district dependent charters are relatively uncommon in California, but still exist and are governed by the elected school boards of the district, in addition to being chartered by the district. I am sure that there are large chunks of CA territory where the only charters are those that are not district dependent, i.e. those that are non-profit corporations with their own boards.

          The distinction became important when the STRS ran into issues with the Internal Revenue Service regarding favorable tax treatment of charter teacher pensions.

          See:

          http://www.calstrs.com/whats-new/potential-irs-regulations-may-affect-public-charter-schools

          Corporate charter teachers were/are potentially at risk of very unfavorable tax treatment for STRS benefits because of the interposition of the non-profit corporation, such that the technical employer of the teachers is a corporation and not a public entity. The relatively very few district dependent charter school teachers are directly employed by the school district for the charter, and do not share this risk under the IRS’s proposed actions, since they are employed directly by a public entity and not a corporation.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            I misconstrued what you said to be the distinction between independent and corporate managed charters.

          • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

            The issue of governance of district dependent charters vs. corporate charters gets even more potentially confusing in that while district dependent charters do not have their own real dedicated boards, but are governed by their district's elected school board, some such district dependent charters have appointed their own "advisory" charter school boards. Such advisory boards have no real legal authority, and no legal existence, and all they can do is make suggestions which … Read More

            The issue of governance of district dependent charters vs. corporate charters gets even more potentially confusing in that while district dependent charters do not have their own real dedicated boards, but are governed by their district’s elected school board, some such district dependent charters have appointed their own “advisory” charter school boards. Such advisory boards have no real legal authority, and no legal existence, and all they can do is make suggestions which the real elected board might adopt for the non-corporate charter. Non-corporate charter “advisory” boards could be easily confused with the corporate boards of corporate charter schools.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            These dependent charters are so few and far between why are you focused on them? In one comment you spoke about the high teacher turnover rate as a criticism of charters . There are a number of reasons why charters have high turnover and while some of these reasons may have to do with voluntary charter practices, most of the churn is attributable to other financial and demographic circumstances. There have been a number of … Read More

            These dependent charters are so few and far between why are you focused on them?

            In one comment you spoke about the high teacher turnover rate as a criticism of charters .

            There are a number of reasons why charters have high turnover and while some of these reasons may have to do with voluntary charter practices, most of the churn is attributable to other financial and demographic circumstances. There have been a number of studies done of this well known issue. It is all readily available.

            I’m not going to regurgitate it, but after reading up on this subject I cannot come to the conclusion that “many, if not most charters tend to view their critical teaching staff as throwaways to used up and discarded, expendable, a view that is inconsistent with any long term aspiration to true academic excellence.”

            Certainly some charters do. And certainly the unions do when they allow effective critical teaching staff to be laid off when less competent but more senior teachers are not.

        • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

          Don, I suspect that regional differences account for some of our differing perceptions. Non-corporate charters are more common in rural parts of the state, the parts with which I identify. If you are from the greater Bay region, I understand you have some very high performing corporate charters there which attract and retain good teaching talent. Doubtless there are some bad ones as well. I am not by any means opposed … Read More

          Don, I suspect that regional differences account for some of our differing perceptions. Non-corporate charters are more common in rural parts of the state, the parts with which I identify. If you are from the greater Bay region, I understand you have some very high performing corporate charters there which attract and retain good teaching talent. Doubtless there are some bad ones as well.

          I am not by any means opposed generally to the Charter school alternative. I am disappointed, though with what I believe are notable exceptions, that charter education falls far short of meeting its potential for demonstrable academic excellence when taken as whole.

          My own point of reference is our kids’ exceptional K-12 homeschooling outcomes and those of the family and friends in our loose-knit homeschooling circle. I don’t see why less should be expected of a charter school in terms of outcomes, given the freedom and funding, and a self-selected body of students and parents choosing charter attendance.

          In view of their advantages and freedom, charter outcomes average considerably less than optimal from what I can see. This begs the question of where the pathology lies? I’ve read some of the studies, reviews, and expositions on charter teacher turnover. Some charter advocates who must think that you and I fell off with the turnip crop even claim that the constant teacher churn is somehow beneficial or indicative of school virtue, or that their magic systems and management skills are so exceptional that teachers don’t really matter in their system. I’ve had the opportunity to dialogue with a fair number of excellent charter teachers with strong subject matter skills and motivation who left their charter schools after a year or so, leaving behind in the charter mostly teachers who probably couldn’t land a job anywhere else.

          In my professional life, I’ve dealt with many hundreds of employers of all sorts and a relative is CEO of a company picked as one of the ten best employers to work for in the US by a popular business journal. The charter practices that I’ve encountered relative to teaching staff, selecting them for competence, appreciating them, encouraging them, supporting them, and building their long term loyalty, haven’t even reached the level of mediocre relative to what I’ve seen among other employers. I hope things are different in your area and I wouldn’t be surprised if many were much better. It would be nice if we could hear anonymously from some of the charter teachers themselves on this forum relative to this question.

  3. Miles 2 years ago2 years ago

    Charters so so many underhanded things and it's very difficult to expose. For example, if a student misbehaves they tell the parent that it's better if she leaves the school bc the school is thinking of expulsion. The parent gets scared and withdraws the student. On paper the school had nothing to do with the student leaving. Charters play many tricks to push behavior problems out that no paper work ever shows. Working at a … Read More

    Charters so so many underhanded things and it’s very difficult to expose. For example, if a student misbehaves they tell the parent that it’s better if she leaves the school bc the school is thinking of expulsion. The parent gets scared and withdraws the student. On paper the school had nothing to do with the student leaving. Charters play many tricks to push behavior problems out that no paper work ever shows. Working at a traditional school we dred a student coming from a charter bc we know what it means–s/he will be a serious discipline problem. And traditional schools are powerless to do anything. All the students have to suffer bc a few discipline problems destroy the learning process.

    I didn’t even get to the wave a students we get from charters a few weeks before state testing. And guess what? They are always low scoring students.

  4. Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

    I'm surprised not to see criticism of the notorious charter school teacher turnover in a report highlighting the shortcomings of charter schools. Just a few years ago it was reported that LA charter schools serving middle and high school students were losing half their teachers every year. The statewide and nationwide charter teacher turnover stats have also been dismal. I am surprised that the California Charter Schools Association, … Read More

    I’m surprised not to see criticism of the notorious charter school teacher turnover in a report highlighting the shortcomings of charter schools.

    Just a few years ago it was reported that LA charter schools serving middle and high school students were losing half their teachers every year. The statewide and nationwide charter teacher turnover stats have also been dismal. I am surprised that the California Charter Schools Association, which has sought to encourage wise charter practices in some critical areas, does not seem to tackle this serious charter shortcoming.

    It is hard not to suspect that many, if not most charters tend to view their critical teaching staff as throwaways to used up and discarded, expendable, a view that is inconsistent with any long term aspiration to true academic excellence. Private enterprises that select professional staff competently, and manage and reward staff thoughtfully, do not have such turnover. Upper level administrative heads would roll at, say, Chevron, if critical professional staff turned over at such a rate. Such turnover is not indicative of healthy free enterprise, it is indicative of callousness, incompetence, and ultimately failure. Charter advocates will trot out the usual rationalizations. They will be about as convincing as those offered in support of the near impossibility of terminating incompetent teachers at conventional schools.

    Charters should not be renewed for charter schools that signal incompetence with excessive teacher turnover. Charter teachers should be anonymously polled on working conditions and professional satisfaction as a part of the determination of whether a charter should continue. If the school isn’t good for its teachers, it is hard to believe that it is truly good for its students.

    Replies

    • el 2 years ago2 years ago

      Excellent comment, Andrew.

    • Karl 2 years ago2 years ago

      This is a great point, but remember that new charters get their teachers from a candidate pool that has a lot of disgruntled teachers (who by definition have not found employment elsewhere). It’s typical for a new charter to have 50%+ turnover after Year 1. However, a charter that continues to have high turnover every year is indeed a potential problem school.

  5. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    As a general supporter of the concept of charter schools, I want to see more oversight of the use of our public dollars so that only the legitimate and successful charter schools will be able to serve the school public. I don't buy the idea that reasonable oversight may infringe on the freedoms of charter to function and innovate. To the extent that better oversight will reduce abuses I think the opposite is more likely … Read More

    As a general supporter of the concept of charter schools, I want to see more oversight of the use of our public dollars so that only the legitimate and successful charter schools will be able to serve the school public. I don’t buy the idea that reasonable oversight may infringe on the freedoms of charter to function and innovate. To the extent that better oversight will reduce abuses I think the opposite is more likely true.

    With that said, It is my opinion that charter authorizers are sometimes derelict in their duty to provide the oversight for which they are being paid (typically 1% of the school budget in CA) and for which they have a fiduciary duty to guard the public trust. Any lack of oversight is an invitation to waste, fraud and abuse. Coming on the heels of the newly minted LCFF law which is woefully derelict in providing state oversight of districts, the irony of this article about charter oversight is not lost on me.

    To give an example, last year I tried long and hard at my own time and expense to get SFUSD to do the oversight job of its charters, in particular my son’s charter. An authorizer’s unwillingness to supervise is in itself a form of fraud whereby it receives the fee and fails to provide the service. This is likely the result of the fact that districts are not accustomed to self-oversight and they have not developed cultures around it. And certainly LCFF has only exacerbated that problem given the failure of the State to ensure district accountability vis-a-vis grant expenditure and community engagement. There’s a big lie going on with the integrity of the LCAPs, but that’s another subject.

    This article broaches an important and nuanced subject and I believe Ms. Frey could have provided better context rather than creating the impression that the charter industry is corrupt based on a few examples. I could write an article citing specific examples of corruption in TPSs. Here in SFUSD administrators were indicted for embezzlement. With LAUSD on notice of possible litigation over its usage of $137M of LCFF funding, it is clear there’s plenty of controversy over how funds are spent in public education.

    I support the reforms suggested in this article on the basis that they will make charters stronger without impinging on reasonable autonomy. What I have found in my own experience is that charter culture can be very much like private school culture – if you don’t like it leave. In that respect, cases of corruption notwithstanding, in my estimation the most important reforms needed for charters have to do with governance: charters need to be run in true partnership with the communities they serve so that CMOs, EMOs and any other insular governing bodies are NOT free to act in interests contrary to those of the communities served.

    Replies

    • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

      I am mostly in agreement with you here, Don. However, you should take note that Frey's article is about the new report from Brown University and NOT all fiscal malfeasance and mismanagement in schools. Because of that salient fact (geez, it is the title for goodness sake), Frey has an reporter's obligation to explain the crux of the report that she is reporting on and not encroach on related but separate matters that do not … Read More

      I am mostly in agreement with you here, Don.

      However, you should take note that Frey’s article is about the new report from Brown University and NOT all fiscal malfeasance and mismanagement in schools. Because of that salient fact (geez, it is the title for goodness sake), Frey has an reporter’s obligation to explain the crux of the report that she is reporting on and not encroach on related but separate matters that do not address the Brown University report. In order to include a hint of balance from possible detractors of the report (which is all she needs to do, TBH), Frey includes a quote and a paraphrase from Jason Mandall in paragraph 7, in the last sentence, that briefly touches upon a possible footnote to your topic. She even includes a paraphrase from the report’s author, too, at the beginning of paragraph 8 that briefly addresses your criticism. You can safely critique how Frey reports on the Brown report, but to critique an item that is related but outside the scope of the article’s objective is a reader’s informal fallacy. I have found that you engage in this type of fallacy frequently.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Let's keep in mind that the Annenberg Institute for School Reform is a well known left-wing think tank. That's fine, but let it be known to those who might consider the report as emanating from a neutral source. I happen to agree with it for that matter. (I did not read the report itself only what was reported here.) Secondly, if Susan Frey was not concerned about the message conveyed in the article she wrote, she … Read More

        Let’s keep in mind that the Annenberg Institute for School Reform is a well known left-wing think tank. That’s fine, but let it be known to those who might consider the report as emanating from a neutral source. I happen to agree with it for that matter. (I did not read the report itself only what was reported here.)

        Secondly, if Susan Frey was not concerned about the message conveyed in the article she wrote, she would have had no reason to replace the photo of OSA unless she felt she was trodding on shaky ground as a reporter.

        I disagree with you that she is under some kind of journalistic stranglehold to focus her article based only upon the contents of the report. She doesn’t work for an advertising firm. Last I heard Ed Source is not the publicity arm of Brown University. She’s free to point out contextual information and even offer contrary views, this is, if what she wanted to present the issue from different sides rather than exclusively focus on the report itself. That wasn’t how she chose to report it. Let’s see if she writes more than an off-handed mention of TPS malfeasance anytime soon.

        If you have any concerns about my engaging in “informal fallacy” ( whatever that is) let me know at the time.

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          BTW, now that I've become informed on the meaning of the term, I don't see how it applies. Criticizing an article for what the author chose not to report happens all the time. It is generally regarded as standard procedure in ferreting out media bias. I notice such bias by omission often in the work of Ms. Frey in comparison to other many writers at Ed Source. Such criticism seems reasonable given that waste … Read More

          BTW, now that I’ve become informed on the meaning of the term, I don’t see how it applies. Criticizing an article for what the author chose not to report happens all the time. It is generally regarded as standard procedure in ferreting out media bias. I notice such bias by omission often in the work of Ms. Frey in comparison to other many writers at Ed Source. Such criticism seems reasonable given that waste of the taxpayer’s dollar is hardly exclusive to charter schools. As a reporter I could choose to write about the issue exclusively on basis of the report and run the risk of being criticized for one-sided reporting or I could do more than pay lip service to even-handedness and comprehensive reporting. That you were not persuaded by my argument about the reporting doesn’t mean my assertions are false or illogical. It is interesting thought that you said you agree with most of what I had to say but chose focus on criticizing my short mention of the bias. Once again, that is your choice. Noted.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            So... What does Frey do: She writes a piece about the Brown report where she addresses Don's supposedly unchallenged assumption that "public schools and districts have also been charged with financial mismanagement" and gets the author of said report to agree "that fraud can happen anywhere." What does Don do: Instead of addressing the contents of the Brown report because he never read it (but agrees with the content of it and disagrees with the organization … Read More

            So…

            What does Frey do: She writes a piece about the Brown report where she addresses Don’s supposedly unchallenged assumption that “public schools and districts have also been charged with financial mismanagement” and gets the author of said report to agree “that fraud can happen anywhere.”

            What does Don do: Instead of addressing the contents of the Brown report because he never read it (but agrees with the content of it and disagrees with the organization that brought it to us), Don criticizes Frey for not writing the article that he wants her to have written.

            Yes, Don, that sounds totally logical.

            Don, our neighborhood rat catcher, has yet again ferreted out the nefarious rodent of media bias for all us poor readers out there. I would say thank you, Don, but all news reports contain bias, even when one agrees with it. After all, everything–and I mean all forms of communication– is framed through the very structure that contains it. By the very nature of reporting on “an” issue, it is framed in bias. I suppose if one always has his head so close to the ground looking for rats, he misses the obvious, though.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        TheMorrigan said – “I mostly in agreement with you here, Don”.

        I appreciate your magnanimity.

        In regard to the potential bias caveat of mine in which you are not in agreement: Reporters choose which studies to report on. They can be a conduit for the unadulterated findings or choose to report them in the larger of the field of study. Charter opponents never lose the opportunity to point out reporter or research bias, i.e., CREDO. Quid pro quo. Get over it.

        • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

          “Reporters choose which studies to report on.”

          Yep, that is one of the obvious frames of journalistic bias, Don, that I explicitly addressed above, too. Keep up the good “reporting,” Don. You do such a wonderful public service here for us.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”

            Liberal author and activist, Oscar Wilde.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            At least it is a degree of wit, right?

            And you left off the other half of the quote, Don: “. . .but the highest form of intelligence.” That certainly changes the meaning in a tongue-and-cheek way, even if we don’t know if Wilde even said it or not.

            Speaking of sarcasm: “Maybe I’m not trying hard enough to understand. Give me another 20 or 30 years.” Hmm. . .

    • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

      The combustion when SFUSD has tried to exercise oversight of its charter schools has been fierce, expensive and divisive to the district. The charter sector made it clear in the early 2000s with the battles over Edison Charter Academy and Urban Pioneer that the district would face explosive battles if it tried to do so, and that the sector could mobilize media support and legal resources with a snap of the fingers. It's not that … Read More

      The combustion when SFUSD has tried to exercise oversight of its charter schools has been fierce, expensive and divisive to the district. The charter sector made it clear in the early 2000s with the battles over Edison Charter Academy and Urban Pioneer that the district would face explosive battles if it tried to do so, and that the sector could mobilize media support and legal resources with a snap of the fingers. It’s not that surprising that the lesson was learned. How could it not be?

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        The title of this article is "“Report critical of charter school oversight." Apparently by "oversight" they mean charter schools supervising themselves, not the oversight that the authorizers are paid by the charters to provide. So, Caroline, do you condone the practice of districts like SFUSD collecting their 1% supervisory/oversight fee, but doing little in return? Oversight is messy. If the district doesn't want to do it, it shouldn't authorize charters. But it's happy to … Read More

        The title of this article is ““Report critical of charter school oversight.”

        Apparently by “oversight” they mean charter schools supervising themselves, not the oversight that the authorizers are paid by the charters to provide.

        So, Caroline, do you condone the practice of districts like SFUSD collecting their 1% supervisory/oversight fee, but doing little in return?

        Oversight is messy. If the district doesn’t want to do it, it shouldn’t authorize charters. But it’s happy to take the fee. Moreover, if districts acquiesce to WFA at charters where else are they acquiescing? I didn’t see a word in the study findings as reported about failure of authorizers to supervise appropriately by law, despite the title of the article.

        If you extrapolate the 1% authorizer fee to the $700B plus dollars spent on the 4%-5% charter school portion of US education, this number dwarfs the reported $100M number cited for fraud and corruption. Money wasted in the pockets of traditional LEAs is not a story.

        • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

          Districts are VERY limited in their ability to reject charter proposals, and are constantly beat up for trying to do it. Oh, examples? J. Fensterwald Flex Academy How’d that work out?

          OK, where was I…

          Can a participant in the charter sector criticize school districts for not successfully doing what the charter sector exercises its significant (and bounteously funded) muscle aggressively to school districts in doing? #Killingparentsandpleadingformercyduetoorphanhood

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Authorizers are not VERY limited in their ability to reject petitions. Conversely, there are legal limitations set on the number of charters that California can approve which grows by 100 annually. Authorizers do have to provide reasons for rejecting a petition which doesn't seem unreasonable. What are the rejection limitations of which you speak? Are you telling me BOE members feel compelled to grant petitions due to media pressure? How does … Read More

            Authorizers are not VERY limited in their ability to reject petitions. Conversely, there are legal limitations set on the number of charters that California can approve which grows by 100 annually. Authorizers do have to provide reasons for rejecting a petition which doesn’t seem unreasonable. What are the rejection limitations of which you speak? Are you telling me BOE members feel compelled to grant petitions due to media pressure?

            How does the loss of K12’s Flex Academy course accreditation by NCAA restrict an LEA’s ability to reject petitions? If anything this debacle gives LEAs more ammunition to scrutinize petitions. Maybe I missed your point. I definitely didn’t get the next paragraph.

            What does J Fensterwald have to do with Flex or is that a typo?

            TheMorrigan, I stated my views and provided my supporting info in the cursory fashion that characterizes blogging. Disagreement often makes for interesting discussion, but the personal ad hominem quality of your responses is not as interesting.

          • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

            This is a reply to Don (no reply button on his post, so I don't know where it'll show up in the thread). (Proposed) charter authorizers can't reject charters on the basis of harm to other schools, for example (obviously if there's a finite number of students and a charter starts up, that'll inherently harm the schools currently serving those students, and the students in them). There are a number of other restrictions. Plus of … Read More

            This is a reply to Don (no reply button on his post, so I don’t know where it’ll show up in the thread). (Proposed) charter authorizers can’t reject charters on the basis of harm to other schools, for example (obviously if there’s a finite number of students and a charter starts up, that’ll inherently harm the schools currently serving those students, and the students in them). There are a number of other restrictions. Plus of course the proposed charter operators can go up the chain to the county BOE and state BOE. Plus often the district gets beat up by the press, local politicians and of course the charter lobbying entities.

            Sorry, John Fensterwald, but … when Flex Academy was first proposed, he was writing editorials sharply criticizing the SFUSD Board of Ed for rejecting the proposal, joining a number of voices criticizing equally sharply. Flex Academy then opened as a state-chartered school. I apologize for dredging up the past, but on the other hand, it’s an example right there in front of us of a practice that is definitely part of this discussion. A lot of SFUSD’s blood was drawn some years before that over the Urban Pioneer and Edison charters (the latter drew literally INTERNATIONAL press coverage). Let’s just say the predicted success didn’t materialize. Is there any obligation to rethink or publicly reexamine? Discuss among yourselves.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            You are correct, Don. I should have left your quote out. Although I didn't call you a hypocrite, I certainly implied it by including your sarcastic retort to Gary. I was under the impression that it was fair game since you brought up the (fake and incomplete) Wilde quote about my own character. I thought that since you were swinging the implied ad hominems around, I could, too. That IS a fair point, and … Read More

            You are correct, Don. I should have left your quote out. Although I didn’t call you a hypocrite, I certainly implied it by including your sarcastic retort to Gary. I was under the impression that it was fair game since you brought up the (fake and incomplete) Wilde quote about my own character. I thought that since you were swinging the implied ad hominems around, I could, too.

            That IS a fair point, and I should definitely be the better man.

            Sorry, Don, for implying that you are a hypocrite.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Caroline : "Flex Academy How’d that work out?" It seems to be working out fine. If you are referring to the NCAA issue, that's a red herring as it pertains to SF Flex. When the BOE decided to reject the petition without explanation they invited trouble by failing to follow Ed Code. If they wanted to keep FLEX out of SF, their best shot was to provide the reasoning for the denial which, if valid, … Read More

            Caroline : “Flex Academy How’d that work out?”

            It seems to be working out fine. If you are referring to the NCAA issue, that’s a red herring as it pertains to SF Flex. When the BOE decided to reject the petition without explanation they invited trouble by failing to follow Ed Code. If they wanted to keep FLEX out of SF, their best shot was to provide the reasoning for the denial which, if valid, would have required the SBE to refute it. If the SF BOE had good reason to reject it why didn’t they say so? You cannot legally reject petitions without saying why. Being anti-charter is not a reason. What were they thinking in their silence, especially since the district administration recommended for Flex?

            As I said in the first comment, I’m in total agreement with the recommendations of this report about charter oversight and I have now read the report. I have a lot of criticisms of the way the charter laws are written and the way many schools are run. But that doesn’t make me any less a proponent of charters. Look at LCFF and the total lack of accountability written into that law where school systems are, in general terms, accountable only to themselves and are on the honor system for lack of any other mandated compliance oversight by the State. The Collaborative for Education Excellence is not an enforcement agency. So let’s put the spotlight of charter accountability in perspective, which was one of my criticisms of the article (as opposed to the report) in the first place.

          • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

            Caroline : “Flex Academy How’d that work out?” Don: It seems to be working out fine. (He references a flap over the NCAA.) Caroline: I couldn't care less about the NCAA and am oblivious to that issue. The school's enrollment is dropping precipitously year by year*, its test scores are wan, and if you don't know anyone in the community who has sent a kid to the school, had a disastrous experience and hastily transferred … Read More

            Caroline : “Flex Academy How’d that work out?”

            Don: It seems to be working out fine. (He references a flap over the NCAA.)

            Caroline: I couldn’t care less about the NCAA and am oblivious to that issue. The school’s enrollment is dropping precipitously year by year*, its test scores are wan, and if you don’t know anyone in the community who has sent a kid to the school, had a disastrous experience and hastily transferred the student, you aren’t getting out much, Don. They’re not hard to find.

            As I recall, the BOE did give reasons for rejecting the petition, including stating that the school appeared to be designed to serve largely out-of-district students. As I had to tell John F. when he was posting critical comments about the district’s rejection of the application the SFUSD BOE is not overall anti-charter at all. List the members and go over their views on charter schools and you’ll see for yourself.

            John acknowledged later that the school had not been a success.

            I brought this up because the beating that school districts take for rejecting charter proposals certainly does factor into the number of weak proposals that are approved, and also into the difficulty of overseeing charters. That was a close-at-hand example of media pressuring a school district to approve a charter against its better judgment. Is that responsible media behavior? Discuss among yourselves.

            (By the way, Flex Academy must devote quite a bit of its resources to marketing. My family got on its prospect list, and we were peppered with sales calls and e-mails practically up until the day my youngest graduated (from an SFUSD high school in 2012).)

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Response to Caroline, no I don't get down to the Bayview very often if that's what you mean. I have no personal knowledge of Flex and only know what I can read on the subject. Maybe you know people who have had a bad experience at the school. I couldn't say. I've had my own complaints about plenty of schools. Obviously, the move out of downtown to the Bayview was not a positive for enrollment, … Read More

            Response to Caroline, no I don’t get down to the Bayview very often if that’s what you mean. I have no personal knowledge of Flex and only know what I can read on the subject. Maybe you know people who have had a bad experience at the school. I couldn’t say. I’ve had my own complaints about plenty of schools. Obviously, the move out of downtown to the Bayview was not a positive for enrollment, not only because it is a tough neighborhood, but also because it can be hard to get there unless your on the 101 corridor. Based on only 4 years of history and 3 years of available data, the school’s API climbed slightly the first 2 and then took a 75 point jump in the last year. The data shows a drop in enrollment from 110 to 75 after the move. If the Ed-Data is wrong I wouldn’t know. The API ranks it as 1 and similar schools as 1.

            As I said I have no inside scoop on the school. But your claims are not supported by the data and the anecdotes (I heard this or that) are taken with a grain of salt. Whether the overall positive comments on Great Schools and YELP have any validity, I don’t know. But the data does not support your conclusions. The school is very young I can imagine it would be difficult to start something novel like FLEX. Blended learning is on the rise across the country. Regarding Flex’s ties to K-12, a for-profit corporation, for what it’s worth as a charter proponent, I do not personally approve of for-profit entities in public education or schools that pay their management salaries that are higher than public school standards.

            In regard to other comments on charter school accountability, I can see how much work needs to be done to make charters more accountable based upon my experience at my son’s school. An insular fiefdom supported with public dollars is not appropriate for a public school – ANY public school. The district could go a long way to holding the school accountable, but it doesn’t. And Governor Brown had an opportunity to make charters more accountable under LCFF and decided to make them less so.

            I cannot account for other charters, but if they are anything like the one my son goes to, there a lot of need for improvement in this regard. I will say that the school has many fine qualities, but community input in governance is not one of them. If I thought my son was not getting a fine education there, my criticisms aside, I wouldn’t send him there. The problem is that SFUSD does not offer a smaller school alternative that is focused on SPED and individual learning styles.

          • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

            You know that 1 is the lowest API ranking, right? 10 is the highest.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Of course, just telling you what it said on CA API website. The API rose over the 3-year time period.

          • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

            When use of an eraser on paper test sheets by school personnel in possession of the sheets can no longer be used to increase a small school’s API, I’ll be pleased. It will be interesting to see how certain small schools perform and whether their sudden gains are sustained when all testing is computer based.

          • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

            With the past system of paper test sheets that end up in the hands of administrators before returning to the testing company, questions could arise. I’ve no idea whether this sort of fraud exists in your region. Statistical analysis reveals some interesting anomalies underlying the rapid gains in a few schools in other regions. Disadvantaged students outperforming the advantaged students as a whole?

    • Karl 2 years ago2 years ago

      Excellent points. As you've stated, districts are supposed to show actual services provided up to 1% before they can get the oversight fee. In reality, however, districts charge the 1% regardless, and the agreements with their charters explicitly state that they do not need to show any evidence of work performed to get this fee (ask a charter for a copy of its operational MOU). Many charters see this as a positive (less oversight = … Read More

      Excellent points. As you’ve stated, districts are supposed to show actual services provided up to 1% before they can get the oversight fee. In reality, however, districts charge the 1% regardless, and the agreements with their charters explicitly state that they do not need to show any evidence of work performed to get this fee (ask a charter for a copy of its operational MOU).

      Many charters see this as a positive (less oversight = less work), but overall it’s bad for both charters and the public. Every time a scandal hits, it hurts the entire charter movement, including great schools that have had no such issues.

      As long as oversight is smart, efficient, and productive (vs. just a huge document request with no analysis) it’s a win-win.

  6. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    "The California Department of Education is looking into the loss of upwards of “tens of millions of dollars” in federal and state funds from start-up charter schools that either never opened or failed after their first year or two of operation. Richard Zeiger, chief deputy superintendent in the California Department of Education, first made that assertion at the State Board of Education meeting on September 7 after the closure of a West Sacramento career technical education … Read More

    “The California Department of Education is looking into the loss of upwards of “tens of millions of dollars” in federal and state funds from start-up charter schools that either never opened or failed after their first year or two of operation.

    Richard Zeiger, chief deputy superintendent in the California Department of Education, first made that assertion at the State Board of Education meeting on September 7 after the closure of a West Sacramento career technical education charter school.

    Zeiger said the state finds itself having to balance wanting to encourage innovation with ensuring that state and federal funds are not misspent.”

    Quote taken from article on this site, written by Louis Freedberg, from 9/27/2011

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Gary, isn't your real objection that charters can promote and fire teachers based on quality, not seniority? You want all hiring, promotion, pay and pensions to be based 100% on seniority and no evaluations. I was looking at your web site today and they were bragging about how they prevented a principal from observing teachers due to a contract technicality. You don't like charters because you want it to remain virtually impossible … Read More

      Gary, isn’t your real objection that charters can promote and fire teachers based on quality, not seniority? You want all hiring, promotion, pay and pensions to be based 100% on seniority and no evaluations. I was looking at your web site today and they were bragging about how they prevented a principal from observing teachers due to a contract technicality. You don’t like charters because you want it to remain virtually impossible to terminate a bad teacher to the point where fewer than 10 a year are fired statewide, correct? Everything else is just cherry picking anything negative. I’ve never seen you post about a success of a charter school, and there have been many.

  7. Educator 2 years ago2 years ago

    If more regulation is being called for on charters, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of charters, which is to exempt them from the onerous regulations? Here in CA, that means they’re exempted from most of CA education code. I guess the question is how much is too much rules/regulation/ed code? Maybe with the traditional system it’s too much, and with charters it’s too little.

    Replies

    • Frederick Bastiat 2 years ago2 years ago

      Perhaps it is up to parents to decide if a charter school is good for their kids or not, not the government…

      The real “fraud” is the massive failure of LAUSD, which should be broken up into manageable pieces.

      • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

        Forgive me, but even small districts are dysfunctional. (And, no, there is no need form me to dredge out examples. That’s what The Google is for.)

        Therefore, breaking up LAUSD will not solve the problem, it will merely multiply it.

  8. Margaret Schultz 2 years ago2 years ago

    Not sure why you have photos of OSA, in a negative article about Charter Schools. It seems unfair to the school given they weren’t named for any wrong doing. Why not either use generic photos or photos of a school that illustrate the issues in your article? I think OSA deserves an apology.

    Replies

    • Susan Frey 2 years ago2 years ago

      We chose it because it had charter school students in it and is a beautiful photograph. I certainly do apologize for any implication that something is wrong at the Oakland School for the Arts. I had thought the caption would make it clear that the report didn’t talk about any specific California school. Obviously, that was not enough. So I will replace it. We did not mean to upset anyone at your school.

      • Margaret Schultz 2 years ago2 years ago

        Thanks so much for your quick response and for removing the photo. I look forward to having that photo used when sharing good news about the charters or any other public school that is doing it right.:-)

  9. Susan Frey 2 years ago2 years ago

    We actually did feature your school a few years ago, which is why we had the photo. We know it is an amazing school. We carefully worded the caption to make it clear that the report said nothing specific about California charter schools and that this was a file photo.

  10. Genie Foon 2 years ago2 years ago

    Your use of pictures from Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) for an article that points out the shortcomings of certain charter schools serves as a misrepresentation of what is happening at OSA. OSA is one of the most successful charter schools in the country and maybe you should write an article about that for a fair and balanced viewpoint.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      We can’t let Charter Schools just be like all others. That would defeat the purpose.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        As a general supporter of the concept of charter schools, I want to see more oversight of the use of our public dollars so that only the legitimate and successful charter schools will be able to serve the school public. I don’t buy the idea that reasonable oversight may infringe on the freedoms of charter to function and innovate. To the extent that better oversight will reduce abuses I think the opposite is more likely … Read More

        As a general supporter of the concept of charter schools, I want to see more oversight of the use of our public dollars so that only the legitimate and successful charter schools will be able to serve the school public. I don’t buy the idea that reasonable oversight may infringe on the freedoms of charter to function and innovate. To the extent that better oversight will reduce abuses I think the opposite is more likely true.

        With that said, It is my opinion that charter authorizers are sometimes derelict in their duty to provide the oversight for which they are being paid (typically 1% of the school budget in CA) and for which they have a fiduciary duty to guard the public trust. Any lack of oversight is an invitation to waste, fraud and abuse. Coming on the heels of the newly minted LCFF law which is woefully derelict in providing state oversight of districts, the irony of this article about charter oversight is not lost on me.

        To give an example, last year I tried long and hard at my own time and expense to get SFUSD to do the oversight job of its charters, in particular my son’s charter. An authorizer’s unwillingness to supervise is in itself a form of fraud whereby it receives the fee and fails to provide the service. This is likely the result of the fact that districts are not accustomed to self-oversight and they have not developed cultures around it. And certainly LCFF has only exacerbated that problem given the failure of the State to ensure district accountability vis-a-vis grant expenditure and community engagement. There’s a big lie going on with the integrity of the LCAPs, but that’s another subject.

        This article broaches an important and nuanced subject and I believe Ms. Frey could have provided better context rather than creating the impression that the charter industry is corrupt based on a few examples. I could write an article citing specific examples of corruption in TPSs. Here in SFUSD administrators were indicted for embezzlement. With LAUSD on notice of possible litigation over its usage of $137M of LCFF funding, it is clear there’s plenty of controversy over how funds are spent in public education.

        I support the reforms suggested in this article on the basis that they will make charters stronger without impinging on reasonable autonomy. What I have found in my own experience is that charter culture can be very much like private school culture – if you don’t like it leave. In that respect, cases of corruption notwithstanding, in my estimation the most important reforms needed for charters have to do with governance: charters need to be run in true partnership with the communities they serve so that CMOs, EMOs and any other insular governing bodies are NOT free to act in interests contrary to those of the communities served.

        Reposted due to blog posting errors