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Today in the Charter School Scam

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You may not be surprised that privatizing education is not actually a solution to the problems of racism and poverty that are the root causes of poor public education. Instead, those charter schools face the same issues and resort to the same “solutions” as public goods, with the added benefit of undermining public education and moving money into the pockets of the wealthy!

Black students are four times as likely to be suspended from charter schools as white students, according to a new analysis of federal education data. And students with disabilities, the study found, are suspended two to three times the rate of nondisabled students in charter schools.

These inequities are similar to those in traditional public schools, where black and disabled students are disproportionately disciplined for even minor infractions, and as early as preschool — although on average, charter schools suspend pupils at slightly higher rates than traditional public schools.

The analysis of charter school data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights of close to 5,000 charters was done by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, a nonprofit civil rights research and policy organization.

Still, the report is likely to fuel an often fierce debate about disciplinary practices in charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Some charter networks have come under fire for “no excuses” behavioral codes, under which students can be suspended for offenses like clothing violations.

Based on data from the 2011-12 school year, the report found that charter schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels suspended 7.8 percent of students, compared with 6.7 percent of students in noncharter schools. Among students with disabilities, charter schools suspended 15.5 percent of students, compared with 13.7 percent at noncharters. At the extreme end, there were 235 charter schools that suspended more than half of their students with disabilities.

If you like your educational system showing prejudice against people of color and people with disabilities, charter schools are for you!

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  • Linnaeus

    One of the Republican candidates, a certain governor of Ohio, has had his own charter scandal:

    The Plain Dealer reported in June that [David]Hansen, the husband of Gov. John Kasich’s chief of staff and campaign manager Beth Hansen, had intentionally left F grades for online schools out of academic evaluations of charter school oversight agencies.

    Those F grades for schools with thousands of students and run by major Republican donors would have dragged down the rating of the oversight agencies, possibly costing them access to new perks from the state.

    I’m shocked, shocked.

    • wca

      F grades for online schools

      F grades for online schools? I am also shocked.

      ONLINE SCHOOLS : EDUCATION :: METH : DENTAL HEALTH

    • NonyNony

      I heard recently that a number of historically high performing public schools here in Ohio were given F grades this year and are disputing the grade. In the one case that I know some details of it really kind of sounds like the evaluators just ignored things that the school was doing but assigned a failing grade anyway.

      I hadn’t thought of it before, but I wonder if perhaps this was actually something done with the intent to drag the public schools down to make the charter schools not look so bad in a different way. I honestly don’t think I can trust any of the school evaluations in Ohio anymore – I don’t think that they’re being done by people honestly trying to improve the schools and inform parents. They seem to be done just to create propaganda and political attacks.

      • Burning_River

        This is especially notable in the way that the ratings changed for public schools from recent years to this year. As someone who just bought a house in a highly rated district (and paid the premium, too), I have to question 1) How good it is and 2) How quickly the rampant Republicanism that seems to be growing here will destroy it.

        • Lee Rudolph

          2) How quickly the rampant Republicanism that seems to be growing here will destroy it.

          As quickly as it can.

    • postmodulator

      That’s not even the only charter school scandal. It’s scandals all the way down; there’s very little pretense at trying to actually educate.

  • Buckeye623

    But Kasich makes up for that with his great support for the teachers unions in Ohio!

    Oh, wait.

  • ThrottleJockey

    Yes if theres something that black people know it’s that the school-to-prison pipeline only exists in charter schools.

    There are no racist teachers in public school, thank God. The NEA got rid of them all.

    • NonyNony

      The actual text of the article quoted says that charter schools and public schools are similar in this respect. IOW – charter schools don’t do anything to fix the problem at all. It just costs more for charter schools to do the same thing to black kids that public schools were already doing, with the money going into Republican crony pockets.

      Also it’s suggestive that unions aren’t really the problem either, given the similarities of the outcomes. So I’m not quite sure what the point you’re trying to make here is?

      • ThrottleJockey

        I was being sarcastic. Yes the article states what you say but the post suggest that charter schools are uniquely bad…in contrast black parents tend to have positive views of charter schools.

        And I don’t have anything against teacher unions. I think they’re fine as far as they go. But neither do I think that teacher unions are somehow uniquely interested in the welfare of children, any more than I think police unions are uniquely interested in the welfare of people. The only thing unions are uniquely interested in is the welfare of its members. This is a point that often gets lost.

        • Murc

          Yes the article states what you say but the post suggest that charter schools are uniquely bad…in contrast black parents tend to have positive views of charter schools.

          Are these views at all accurate or justified?

          • ThrottleJockey

            It’s hard to find neutral Empirical research. But you might imagine after Decades of black parents being ignored by the public school system that black parents embrace charter schools which take strong actions to reach out to black parents.

            • Murc

              But you might imagine after Decades of black parents being ignored by the public school system that black parents embrace charter schools which take strong actions to reach out to black parents.

              Indeed, I can absolutely see that! In fact, I’ve just assumed that that’s why the black community often embraces charters and magnets.

              But that in no way means that their good opinion of charters is at all justified. It might simply mean the charters are really damn good at grifting.

              • ThrottleJockey

                In terms of educational performance the data is rather mixed. My personal opinion is that charters are fairly equal to Public Schools in terms of actual educational performance.

                But having been a black kid in a largely white Public School actual educational performance is rather a small part of the pie. I faced a lot of racist teachers throughout Public School. My parents confronted a lot of racist bureaucrats. That type of thing creates a lot of stress, worry and disappointment that doesn’t factor into SAT scores. However that doesn’t make it any less important than SAT scores. Even if educational performance is the same–even if educational performance is a bit worse–less racism is worth something.

                My first few years I went to a small parochial school that was crappy. Literally our sewer system backed up 4 or 5 times a month. But it was all black, and I was taught that black was beautiful, and that blacks could do anything they wanted, and my parents never worried about racist teachers.

                • malraux

                  But as the data like in the article shows, charter schools are willing to be just as racist as the public schools.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  And if that persists as a general matter, I’m sure blacks will flock back to public schools.

        • But neither do I think that teacher unions are somehow uniquely interested in the welfare of children, any more than I think police unions are uniquely interested in the welfare of people. The only thing unions are uniquely interested in is the welfare of its members.

          The interests of teachers and students are much more aligned than the interests of police and the residents of the neighborhoods they patrol.

          There are unionized teachers currently (or perhaps recently) out of their schools in Detroit because of unhealthy building conditions. Do you think that making school buildings have healthy air without asbestos is good, bad, or neutral for the students?

    • Linnaeus

      None of these claims were actually made in this post.

    • sparks

      Why don’t you read the whole thing? Here, I’ll help you:

      These inequities are similar to those in traditional public schools, where black and disabled students are disproportionately disciplined for even minor infractions, and as early as preschool — although on average, charter schools suspend pupils at slightly higher rates than traditional public schools.

      • Downpuppy

        Other reports show charters suspending more, and have for years.The stories I’ve heard from people with kids in charters are, naturally, even worse.

    • “Where there’s discipline to be merited out, ThrottleJockey will be there.”

      • ThrottleJockey

        Lol, I spent my first several years of schooling in a small Parochial School which practiced corporal punishment. When I was placed in public school the first thing my mother told my teacher was that if I got out of line she had my mother’s permission to spank me!

        • El Guapo

          You sound…proud of that?

          • ThrottleJockey

            Very!!! You don’t make it out of the hood without a lot of discipline. It’s not always “self discipline” :-D

          • DrS

            TJ is one of our proudest supporters of violence, especially against children.

            It’s not that he wants to hit kids, but he owes it to them.

            • ThrottleJockey

              My mother used to say she was hitting me now so that the cops wouldn’t later…That actually worked for a cousin once. He had stolen a car and was out joyriding when he got stopped by the cops. Fortunately for him a neighbor happened by. “If you take him home,” the neighbor said, “his parents will give him worse than you can.” The police did that. And to hear him and his brothers tell it, he in fact got worse! He was the oldest of 5 boys. After that whipping not a one of them ever thought about stealing a car again. Half of them didn’t even want to learn to drive! ;-)

        • wengler

          All we need to do is bring back corporal punishment and the Ten Commandments!

      • ThrottleJockey

        More seriously I did read an article over the weekend describing so-called No Excuses schooling. Some of the practices are extremely concerning, like the teacher who ripped up the little girls homework in front of her in New York. That was emotionally abusive and harshly so. If you dial it back and make it more about Firm but Fair, or High Expectations, then it’s more defensible.

    • If the defense of charter schools is now that they’re no worse than public schools, what’s the point of stripping democratic accountability from schooling supposed to be?

      • Lee Rudolph

        Stripping away democratic accountability is a good in itself!

        Sheesh, Joe. It’s as though you haven’t been paying attention at all. Are we going to have to hold you back?

  • ThrottleJockey

    Please forgive me I have an off topic shot out to Ronan:
    How a box of Bones under an Irish bar up ended Celtic history.

    Thought this was a fascinating read from multiple angles.

  • DrDick

    On the right, it is all a grift, all the way down.

  • LeeEsq

    ThrottleJockey has something of a point. As far as I can tell from reading, charter schools are popular as an idea with at least a good sized plurality of the African-American electorate. Arguments against charter schools can get patronizing because they usually seem to assume that people in favor of them who aren’t wealthy don’t know what is in their best interest.

    • malraux

      Having seen the outpouring of anger and frustration at “common core math”, I’m willing to say that lots of parents are unable to determine what is in their child’s best interest, at least as far as education goes.

    • As far as I can tell from reading, charter schools are popular as an idea with at least a good sized plurality of the African-American electorate.

      A drowning man will grasp even the blade of a sword.

      • LeeEsq

        This is very dismissive of the policy preferences of many African-Americans. Voting patterns show that most African-Americans and Latin Americans tend to vote for the neoliberal candidates in the Democratic Party when voting in primaries. Its how Andrew Cuomo got to run again and why Hillary Clinton is beating Sanders. Many African-American leaders have pointed out how the Republican Party can attract African-American voters without having to change its policy platform that much. Many African-Americans are simply more right-leaning than liberals would like in their policy preferences and this is demonstrated time and time again in who they actually vote for.

        • Yeah, just as my rejection of the anti-union crap is very dismissive of the policy preferences of many white Americans. Do you think I’m supposed to start believing stupid things based on the demographics of who believes them?

          Why am I supposed to be any more impressed by black people who believe stupid things about charter schools than by the white people I know who believe the same stupid things?

  • XerMom

    As far as I can tell, school choice (vouchers, charters, etc.) has been popular with African American parents for quite a while.
    Here’s a recent survey by a group that pushes for more school choice: http://scoter.baeo.org/news_multi_media/20130723-Survey%20Report-NEW%5B9%5D.pdf
    And this survey from Education Next in 2007 has similar results: http://educationnext.org/what-americans-think-about-their-schools/

    Clearly, strict discipline isn’t a turn off for many African American parents, and, if the charters in my city are any indication, racially exclusive schools are popular with many as well.

    One of the issues here is that there’s very little knowledge among the populace about what, exactly, improves education. Is it culturally sensitive (which to some means racially exclusive) schools? Is it desegregation? Is it tough discipline? Is it social and psychological support? Is it teacher training/experience?

    Even the statistics that come out of schools isn’t very helpful. We know that socioeconomic status is highly correlated with achievement, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen school data broken down by both race and income. Does my kid’s school do a better job of educating students of color, or are the students of color at my kid’s school just coming from richer than average families? Who knows? (I’m sure the district knows, but they aren’t telling.)

    That leaves everyone just guessing which school to choose based on anecdote or gut feeling. Neither is scientific, but parents don’t actually have the luxury of making these decisions based on useful data.

  • grrljock

    I can knee-jerk with the best of ‘em, but in this case it’s worth taking a closer look at the report. I’ll start by reminding/informing folks that there are different types of charter schools; the definition simply describes that a group (of parents, teachers, for-profit entity) established the school under a charter with the area school district. I have an automatic distrust for any for-profit school (be it elementary or university) or healthcare system. For full disclosure, my spouse is a charter school teacher and our child attends a different charter school.

    Back to the report, the authors state that “like non-charter schools, most charter schools are not high-suspending. In fact, more elementary charter schools met our definition of a lower-suspending school than a high-suspending school, and at the secondary level higher-suspending charters only slightly outnumbered lower-suspending charters.” That being said, of course it’s disturbing that overall suspension rates for black and disabled charter school students are higher than those for non-charter schools (though to be clear the average suspension rates of those groups at non-charter schools are already alarmingly high, at >13% and >20% for primary and secondary levels, respectively).

    So what to do with the data? The authors’ sound recommendations are directed to federal, state, and local authorities, not to parents and interested individuals. Yes, obviously the ideal situation is to enroll your children in your local non-charter public school. But if you’re looking for a public alternative, then two rule of thumbs would be: 1) pick a not-for-profit charter and 2) find out what the school’s disciplinary policies are.

    • Schadenboner

      Speaking of knee-jerks, I grew up with a knee-jerk in favor of charters because my mom (former public school teacher, now a professor of education/educational administration/educational policy/educational stuff) was a Kozol fan.

      #NotAllCharters

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