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NAACP Ratifies Charter School Moratorium Resolution. Will USDOE Rise to the Occasion?

October 15, 2016

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:

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.



Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

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  1. Jack permalink

    “This (NAACP) vote means nothing.”

    — Peter Cunningham, Founder / Lead Editor, EDUCATION POST.

    Peter didn’t say much more than that. Here’s the rest of what he wrote in his brief paragraph of defiance:

    “We’re disappointed that the NAACP has ignored the evidence in favor of charters and the demand from Black parents for better options. They are out of touch with their members, the community they represent, and with the changing field of education. All parents have the right to find the best school for their child. Given the overwhelming public support in communities of color for choice, this vote means nothing.”

    I expected that Cunningham would provide a little more detail or substance than that in his response. He’s usually a little more outspoken than that.

    Here’s the link to that:

  2. When the focus is on the money — especially on the MAKING of money — as opposed to talking only about what is best for kids, there will be little educational good.

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    long post.

    Cincinnati was the site of protests against the NAACP resolution to put a moratorium on charter schools. About 150 protesters, who wore coordinated t-shirts, were bussed to Cincinnati from the infamous “Achievement School District” in Memphis, TN, specifically by a group called Memphis Lift.

    Who actually paid for the trip and why did protesters against the NAACP resolution come to Cincinnati from Memphis? I do not final have answers, but there can be no doubt that the charter industry is organized to protest against any cuts in charter expansion. Here are some things worth noting.

    1. The NAACP national board met in Cincinnati. Three persons from Memphis are on NAACP’s 63-member national board: Jesse H. Turner Jr., the organization’s treasurer and the president of Tri-State Bank of Memphis; Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel of Memphis; and Bishop William Graves of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. No doubt the pro-charter group, Memphis Lift, hoped to influence their vote.

    2. Memphis Lift was created in 2015 in order to organize black parents as vocal supporters of school choice. Memphis Lift has close ties to the wife of Chris Barbic, the founding superintendent of the scandalous Memphis “Achievement School District (ASD)”

    3. Why scandalous? An August 2016 audit of the ASD indicated that for school year 2016-2017, ASD added 4 more charter schools to its Memphis portfolio, for a total of 33 under the charter management organizations (CMOs) in charge of running day-to-day operations. This first audit ever revealed frauds on a grand scale. Among them, the liberal issuance of purchasing cards and records of purchases totaling $14,895 for which the cardholders did not obtain advanced approval as required by ASD policy. (p. 44). Six transactions were for a dental insurance premium, donation, coffee supplies, and “accrual calculations” totaling $131,637. Three travel claims were for one flight and CMO expenses, totaling $4,734 with no supporting documentation (p. 43). For more examples of this free spending, including luxury transportation and the bar charges at parties, see the report.

    4. Participants in Memphis Lift are not grassroots volunteers. They are employed-parents who received paid training channeled through Education Reform Now. Education Reform Now is supported by Democrats for Education Reform’s Political Action Committee. Chris Barbic’s wife, Natasha Kamrani, works as the Director of Democrats for Education Reform in Tennessee. She would certainly know about the training program and the political action funding channeled to it.

    5. How was the training financed? Memphis Lift is a fairly expensive operation. Initially, it was organized around 19 parent-employees who received $1800 for attending a 10-week training program. The training included help on public speaking, canvassing parents, and the use of a laptop, a perk given to participants in the program. The parent-employees, paid $12 to $15/hour, worked for about 25 hours per week. They were sent to canvas parents in Memphis neighborhoods where the public schools had been given the lowest performance rating by the state. In addition to providing these parents with information about the low performance of these schools, they discussed charters as an option for the parents. This paid “voice group” for parents successfully canvassed about 1,100 parents, and simultaneously created a roster of prospective contacts for marketing charter schools.

    6. Who provided the training? Dr. Ian P. Buchanan, former director of ASD “community partnerships” provided training through a program called the Parent Leadership and Advocacy Institute (PLAI). PLAI is the local affiliate of the national group (surprise, surprise) of Democrats for Education Reform. Successive cohorts of participants in Memphis Lift’s training have expanded the size of the group.
    In August, Dr. Buchanan became Interim Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Services at The School District of University City, MO. Even so, he has retained his title of “Deputy Director of the Parent Leadership Advocacy Institute/Democrats for Education Reform in Memphis TN.” He resume and links show that he served as a Managing Director for District, School and Community Partnerships at Teach For America. He worked in St. Louis from 2000-2011 earning an award from Teach For America. He participated in Teach for America’s 2014 program as a “School Systems Leaders Fellow.”

    Dr. Buchanan’s work for Memphis Lift was aided by co-director Johnnie M. Hatten.
    Hatten, a conspicuous supporter of charter expansion and member of the ASD Advisory Council, ran for the state legislature in 2016 (as a Democrat), but lost the contest to Antonio Parkinson, a vocal critic of the state-run school turnaround district. Hatten’s campaign coffers were filled by charter-supporting groups: Tennessee Federation for Children PAC ($11, 501), along with Education Reform Now, Students First Tennessee, and Campaign for School Equity (each contributing $5,000). Support for charters in Memphis is clearly threatened, another reason for hoping to get help from the NAACP.

    7. Political connections still supply money to Memphis Lift. In January 2016, Memphis Lift sent 21 members to Washington, D.C. for Teach For America’s 25th anniversary celebration. “Natasha Kamrani, director of Tennessee’s branch of Democrats For Education Reform and wife of founding ASD superintendent Chris Barbic, introduced the group to attendees of the TFA reunion, stating she was lucky to work with them.”

    Follow the money to Teach for America and Democrats for Education Reform and to the many states across the country where “voice groups” like the parents in Memphis are paid for recruiting other parents to charter schools while carefully avoiding the truths about the rip-offs from charter operators.

    In May, 2016 ASD watcher Diane Ravitch said: …”Chris Barbic led the Achievement School District in Tennessee, promising to raise the schools in the bottom 5% to the top 25% in five years; it didn’t happen (five of the six schools in the first cohort are still in the bottom 5%, and the sixth is in the bottom 10%). No matter. Barbic now works for the John Arnold Foundation in what must be a less stressful job.“

    Probably so. Here is part of the job description. Chris Barbic is a “SENIOR EDUCATION FELLOW” at the Houston-based Laura & John Arnold Foundation where he is “working to advance the portfolio model of school governance in cities across the country in order to increase student achievement.” Like many charter supporters, he found an opportunity for personal advancement while leaving a trail of failure behind…and possibly ahead.

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