NAACP Ratifies Charter School Moratorium Resolution. Will USDOE Rise to the Occasion?
On July 29, 2016, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) voted on a resolution calling for a charter school moratorium at its 2016 national convention.
On October 15, 2016, the charter moratorium resolution was officially ratified by the national NAACP. Below is the text of the NAACP charter moratorium press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 15, 2016
Statement Regarding the NAACP’s Resolution on a Moratorium on Charter Schools
CINCINNATI – Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors ratified a resolution Saturday adopted by delegates at its 2016 107th National Convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.
“The NAACP has been in the forefront of the struggle for and a staunch advocate of free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the National NAACP Board of Directors. “We are dedicated to eliminating the severe racial inequities that continue to plague the education system.”
The National Board’s decision to ratify this resolution reaffirms prior resolutions regarding charter schools and the importance of public education, and is one of 47 resolutions adopted today by the Board of Directors. The National Board’s decision to ratify supports its 2014 Resolution, ‘School Privatization Threat to Public Education’, in which the NAACP opposes privatization of public schools and public subsidizing or funding of for-profit or charter schools. Additionally, in 1998 the Association adopted a resolution which unequivocally opposed the establishment and granting of charter schools which are not subject to the same accountability and standardization of qualifications/certification of teachers as public schools and divert already-limited funds from public schools.
We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
Historically the NAACP has been in strong support of public education and has denounced movements toward privatization that divert public funds to support non-public school choices.
“We are moving forward to require that charter schools receive the same level of oversight, civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency, and we require the same of traditional public schools,” Chairman Brock said. “Our decision today is driven by a long held principle and policy of the NAACP that high quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children.”
While we have reservations about charter schools, we recognize that many children attend traditional public schools that are inadequately and inequitably equipped to prepare them for the innovative and competitive environment they will face as adults. Underfunded and under-supported, these traditional public schools have much work to do to transform curriculum, prepare teachers, and give students the resources they need to have thriving careers in a technologically advanced society that is changing every year. There is no time to wait. Our children immediately deserve the best education we can provide.
“Our ultimate goal is that all children receive a quality public education that prepares them to be a contributing and productive citizen,” said Adora Obi Nweze, Chair of the National NAACP Education Committee, President of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and a former educator whose committee guides educational policy for the Association.
“The NAACP’s resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools – as well as today’s data and the present experience of NAACP branches in nearly every school district in the nation,” said Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Our NAACP members, who as citizen advocates, not professional lobbyists, are those who attend school board meetings, engage with state legislatures and support both parents and teachers.”
“The vote taken by the NAACP is a declaratory statement by this Association that the proliferation of charter schools should be halted as we address the concerns raised in our resolution,” said Chairman Brock. [Emphasis added.]
On September 29, 2016, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report on charter schools and their management organizations at the US Department of Education (USDOE), which has the reputation for disbursing charter grants without properly overseeing the money. The OIG report also noted the risk related to many charter school and CMO relationships– one in which the CMO could benefit by serving itself above serving the goal of a cheaper bottom line as opposed to serving the needs of students.
The following is from the OIG’s executive summary:
We determined that charter school relationships with CMOs posed a significant risk to Department program objectives. Specifically, we found that 22 of the 33 charter schools in our review had 36 examples of internal control weaknesses related to the charter schools’ relationships with their CMOs (concerning conflicts of interest, related-party transactions, and insufficient segregation of duties). …We concluded that these examples of internal control weaknesses represent the following significant risks to Department program objectives: (1) financial risk, which is the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse; (2) lack of accountability over Federal funds, which is the risk that, as a result of charter school boards ceding fiscal authority to CMOs, charter school stakeholders (the authorizer, State educational agency (SEA), and Department) may not have accountability over Federal funds sufficient to ensure compliance with Federal requirements; and (3) performance risk, which is the risk that the charter school stakeholders may not have sufficient assurance that charter schools are implementing Federal programs in accordance with Federal requirements.
We also found that the Department did not have effective internal controls to evaluate and mitigate the risk that charter school relationships with CMOs pose to Department program objectives. The Department did not have controls to identify and address the risks related to CMO relationships because it did not believe the risk to be materially different than risks presented by other grantees that received Department funds. …
Further, the Department did not implement adequate monitoring procedures that would provide sufficient assurance that it could identify and mitigate the risks specific to charter school relationships with CMOs. …Also, the Department did not ensure that SEAs monitored the relationships between charter schools and CMOs in a manner that would have addressed financial risk, lack of accountability, and program performance risk. This occurred in part because the Department did not collect and analyze information needed to perform a risk assessment and then tailor its monitoring procedures accordingly. Without performing a risk assessment, the Department did not provide guidance to SEAs related to the potential risks posed by charter schools with CMOs.
As a result, the Department’s internal controls were insufficient to mitigate the significant financial, lack of accountability and performance risks that charter school relationships with CMOs pose to Department program objectives.
In reporting on the OIG charter audit, the Business Insider compares the vulnerability of the charter school-CMO relationship to the subprime mortgage crisis “bubble” via a 2015 report on the subject by Preston Green and others:
The study, titled “Are charter schools the new subprime loans?,” notes that several factors appearing to edge the charter school industry — schools funded partly by tax dollars but run independently — toward a bubble are similar to those that encouraged banks to start offering risky mortgage loans.
One such similarity is what the study calls the “principal-agent problem.”
In the mortgage crisis, mortgage servicers began handling administrative tasks that originators used to do, such as collecting fees from late payments or foreclosures. Since the servicers were compensated to foreclose on loans rather than find alternatives, the incentives of the servicers and the originators diverged, which negatively affected both homeowners and banks that forecasted mortgage payments into the future.
Charter schools have this same misalignment with third-party management organizations, according to the study. …
The study found that while charter school boards have a responsibility to follow the same laws that relate to public schools, the incentive of these outside organizations is to increase revenue or cut expenses. That misalignment creates an environment that may discriminate against students who the organizations see as “too expensive,” such as those with disabilities, according to the study.
In short, when the business bottom line is present in the educational mix, student well being will lose out as education on the cheap becomes the principal goal.
Kudos to the NAACP for confronting this and other critical issues in its charter school moratorium and for formally challenging USDOE to clean up its charter-school-promoting game.