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CA Charter School Assn. Wants All Schools to Become Charters or “Charter-Like.” No Thanks.

September 1, 2019

In June 2019, Califonia blogger Michael Kohnhaas has received a massive number of internal documents from Green Dot Charter Schools, including those connected to the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).

One such document posted by Kohlhaas, an information packet for an October 2018 CCSA executive summit, offers stunning insight into the mindset of CCSA leadership, including the belief that proponents of traditional public education could actually be persuaded to somehow join the likes of CCSA (and, more broadly, the charter school “movement”) in its intention to reshape tradtional public education in a “charter-like” image that suits CCSA.

*If only we communicate that there is room in our vision for traditional public ed to remake themselves according to our specifications, those who are against charter schools will join our ranks.*

I find the idea profoundly arrogant and ignorant on its face.

But do read it for yourself, as directly quoted from the CCSA executive summit info packet under the heading, “vision,” with a slice of subsequent section on “mission” to bring this nonsense home:

VISION

Current CCSA Vision: Increasing student learning by growing the number of families choosing high quality charter schools so that no child is denied the right to a great public education.

Proposed new CCSA Vision: Providing absolutely every young person a great public education by growing the number of families choosing high quality charter public schools and encouraging all public schools to become more charter-like.

Variation 2: Providing absolutely every young person a great public education by growing the number of families choosing high quality charter public schools and encouraging all public schools to become as equitable as charter public schools.

Comment: The Board has previously said that a vision should be in service to an ideal. CCSA’s current vision describes “learning” as that ideal, but it may make sense to consider making “Public Education” that ideal to reflect the fact that in our society public education occupies a unique place in our collective psyche. It is the thing that we believe best reflects our commitment to give all people equal opportunity to succeed and enjoy life.

The current Vision focuses exclusively on charter schools. It is silent on what is supposed to happen to the rest of public education. Thus far, we have not been able to agree about what we want the public education system to evolve into. For many years, we did not suffer blowback due to our inability to craft a shared vision for what the traditional system is supposed to evolve into. That is no longer the case. People are being led to conclude that the growth of charter schools presumes damage being done to public education more broadly and that is leading more people to oppose charter schools. We also have many within the traditional system who assume that the charter school movement is one big replacement strategy because we believe that nothing of value can be found within the traditional public school system. This leads many educators within the system who could be our allies to oppose us in ways that they wouldn’t if they felt that there was space and opportunity for them within the future that we envision.

By showing that we believe that all public schools can evolve to become more charter-like, we are signaling that we believe the end state we are moving to is one where, yes, all public schools will be charter schools or charter-like schools, but that we believe a part of the equation is that many existing public schools will be able to remake themselves so that they may play an important role in the future of public education. In Variation 2, we are unabashed about the fact that we believe that, by design, the charter school model is fundamentally more aligned with student equity than the traditional public school model, and we highlight how a portion of our work will go to making sure that we can drive an equity agenda that will ultimately help all kids achieve greater equity whether it is through enrollment in a charter
school or enrollment in another public school that has evolved to treat all students more equitably.

MISSION

Current CCSA Mission: A million students attending charter public schools by 2022, with charter public schools outperforming non-charter public schools on every measure.

Proposed New CCSA Mission: Every student in California attending a great charter school, or a great charter-like public school, by 2030.

CCSA presumes that charter schools are “more equitable” that traditional public schools, and, given such declared truth, are therefore The Ones to “push” traditional public education to be (it seems) more “charter-like.” However, CCSA did not include equity among its five chief organizational goals until it came up with the “charter-like” idea for offering traditional public education the opportunity to be recreated to suit CCSA pretension.

From CCSA’s proposed, “full equity for all” goal, to be added to its “five Fs” (“funding, facilities, freedom, firmer accontability, faster growth”):

In order to create a new focus on pushing traditional public schools to become more equitable in the ways that charter schools are more equitable than traditional public schools, we propose making a 6th F, “Full Equity for All.” … These are some of the bullets we would propose including under this new F:

  • Ensuring that no public school may exclude a student from admissions based upon their place of residence or upon selective academic admissions criteria.
  • Ensuring that all public schools receive all of the funding their students generate at the school level so that no party may redirect funds away from the students for whom the funding was intended.
  • Ensuring that it is transparent and clear how public education funding is being spent all the way down to the school level so that we can ensure equitable treatment of students.
  • Ensuring that we are constantly pushing to invest additional state funding in our highest need students.
  • Ensuring that all public schools’ performance is evaluated every five years by an independent regulator in order to ensure that all of the school’s students are well served.

It took CCSA until 2018 to arrive at an equity goal, not because CCSA sees the need to make certain that charter schools are equitable so much as to assume that charter schools are automatically “more equitable” and to condescend to offer traditional public school supporters the chance to be as good as the charters that have (of course) already arrived equitably.

Of course, blind conceit leaves one open for fish-in-barrel criticisms, including the fact that all-charter, open-enrollment New Orleans includes several selective-admission charter schools— which means that these charter schools are not being very charter-like.

Also, in order to invest more money in “highest need students,” a school must first enroll those students. Charter schools have established a reputation for “systematically counseling out students with disabilities rather than making accommodations and providing the required services and supports.” 

“Counseling out” falls into the category of creative, shady ways to deselect undesired students, as does, say, by not advertising open seats and by employing “targeted marketing and unofficial referrals.”

And as for “transparent and clear how public education funding is being spent,” don’t get me started on California’s A3 charter school fraud and California’s 306 charter schools that received federal money and either closed or never opened.

Finally, when charter schools shut down because they cannot manage to make it through an entire school year, or otherwise shutters before the student is finished attending, the entire choice process becomes moot. The school chosen by the parents and students is no longer available, and it isn’t because the parents and students suddenly decided that they wanted to be out of a school and on a frenzied hunt for Plan B.

I teach at a traditional public high school. If I arrived at school and found a note on the door stating that school was closed that day “for maintenance” only to learn later that the property was in foreclosure, such a situation would certainly be “charter-like.”

If my school faked having a special education classroom to fool state investigators, or if my school paid a student recruiter hundreds of taxpayer dollars per student to boost its enrollment, and if the recruiter happened to be the spouse of a state charter association who provided the recruiter with school closure leads for said recruitment, these situations, too, would be “charter-like.”

I am just fine with the “charter-unlikeness” of traditional public education.

But one more telling word about charter school choice and equity, and it concenrns a brief conversation I had in New Orleans in 2015 with Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) director, Margaret “Macke” Raymond, a conversation I included in my book, School Choice: The End of Public Education? (pg. 148):

Those who advocate for school choice do not necessarily believe that equity of educational opportunity will result from it. This realization was a real eye-opening moment for me. In June 2015, I attended a session at the Education Research Alliance of New Orleans (ERA) conference, which focused on determining the success of what is now a 100% state-run charter school district in New Orleans, the Recovery School District (RSD), and its local-board-run remnant district, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB). [Note: RSD and OPSB have since become a single, all-charter district.]

In discussing the issue of educational opportunity inequities present in New Orleans’ “choice” system, Margaret Raymond… remarked, “In designing a system… [there is] a trade-off between equity and designing a system to educate all students…. I think we could tolerate that.”

I was amazed to hear that. Raymond is a proponent of charter schools and of charter school systems like New Orleans’ RSD. But until that moment, I had assumed she believed that educational equity should be a non-negotiable in American public education. Apparently not.

Educational equity– fairness of educational opportunity– can surely prove to be challenging. Nevertheless, America’s public schools should aspire to be places of equity.

CCSA’s implication that charter schools have some equity edge on traditional public schools it simply not correct. In reality, America’s charter sector supplies a ready stream of chaos, manipulation, and scandal notably unrivaled by traditional public education– a chaos that so often leaves charter school parents and students in crisis mode and on the losing end of the so-called “choice.”

school closed

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Charters, RSD

3 Comments
  1. Fuller Hunt permalink

    Thank you for this article. How do we rid our country of charter schools, vouchers, etc.?

  2. Brilliant, as usual. Thank you for your investigations and insights.

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