Charter schools in California have come under criticism over the past few years, due to waste, mismanagement and fraud. While there are some excellent charter schools, a number of charter schools that have failed due to poor student outcomes or financial instability, suggests greater legislation and oversight is necessary
The attached article was published in CBS Sacramento yesterday. This is a great place to start the conversation towards completely revamping charter law.
Stakeholders for Transparency urges you to contact the California State Board of Education, and request they deny the petition for Rocketship Charter School. The board will be hearing the petition on March 9, so the earlier the better!
Rocketship charter is known for it’s intense “drill and kill” curriculum. which is not at all suitable for young children.
Rocketship charter has targeted students in the Monument Corridor, promising their families better schools. Rocketships main reason for targeting the Monument community is purely financial. With the new LCAP school funding, students who qualify as English Language Learners, and for free/reduced lunch are worth more money than students who do not. The current oversight of Charter Schools in California is abysmal, at best. There is no guarantee that the additional funding would be spent on ELL programs.
Placing Rocketship in Concord will not create additional jobs, or bring any additional funding to the city.
What it will do, is divide our communities. Our school district is zoned for neighborhood schools. Children and families need the support of their communities, and in turn, work to better their own schools. Rocketship has not been able to secure a site for their school, so MDUSD is forced to offer them equitable space. MDUSD has approved a resolution to place Rocketship at Ayers Elementary, and Silverwood Elementary. Both of these schools have major traffic issues already. Adding an additional 125 students, if not more, will make the traffic in these areas completely unmanageable, and unsafe.
Please, write to the State Board of Education, urge them to uphold the decision of our locally elected school officials, who have already denied Rocketship at the MDUSD level, and at the County Board of Education level.
You can email email@example.com. Alternatively, you may also call the SBE at 916-319-0827 or send a facsimile to 916-319-0175.
In addition, we urge you to write, call or email the contacts listed at the bottom to express your wishes to deny Rocketships appeal to the state.
Limit your reasoning to not having Rocketship in the community at all!
To see the staff reports of MDUSD and CCBOE that support these agency’s unanimous votes to deny, please follow these links:
To see the report of why MDUSD has to offer space to Rocketship:
To see the proposal Rocketship has sent to the State: (item 7)
Additional info regarding Rocketship:
Additional info regarding “corporate” charter schools:
Urge the following to deny the Rocketship petition:
To contact the State Board of Education members or staff, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you may also call the SBE at 916-319-0827 or send a facsimile to 916-319-0175.
email@example.com | 916-322-6029
Urge the following to contact the California State Board of Education and ask them to deny the Rocketship petition:
Mayor: Laura Hoffmeister
Vice Mayor: Ron Leone
Councilmembers: Edi Birsan, Tim Grayson and Daniel Helix
1950 Parkside Drive, MS/01
Concord, CA 94519
Phone: (925) 671-3158. Fax: (925) 798-0636
Note: For correspondence sent to City Council, City Clerk or City Treasurer, please put Attention; followed by the name of the specific elected official.
Mayor Rob Schroder: 925-372-3501 firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Mark Ross: 925-372-3544 email@example.com
Councilmember Lara Delaney: 925-372-3542 firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember AnaMarie Avila Farias: 925-372-3543 email@example.com
Councilmember Debbie McKillop: 925-372-3541 firstname.lastname@example.org
Contra Costa County Supervisors:
Karen Mitchoff: email@example.com
2151 Salvio St., Suite R
Concord, CA 94520
By Thomas Peele, firstname.lastname@example.org © Copyright 2015, Bay Area News Group
In 2011, Lassen County’s district attorney requested a still-unanswered opinion by the state attorney general on whether California’s Public Records, Brown and Fair Political Practices acts apply to public charter schools.
It came after former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation requiring charter schools to comply with those laws in 2010. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown, who’s anti-transparency and pro-charter, killed another attempt.
Assembly member Mike Gipson, D-Los Angeles, has introduced a similar bill. But Brown remains governor.
Charter schools pull students and money from public school districts where these laws apply, spending tens of millions of dollars across California, sometimes with nebulous — or worse — results.
The state Charter School Association urges members to generally comply with the laws, but it’s also lobbied Attorney General Kamala Harris’ staff to opine that they don’t apply. Harris should finally and forcefully reject those arguments. While the opinions are nonbinding, they’re influential and cited often.
My children attended the Urban Montessori Charter School in East Oakland for a year, an Alameda County Board of Education charter. The kids, now schooling elsewhere, weren’t the only ones obtaining an education there. My year as a charter-school parent provided a vivid lesson in why they require sunlight’s constant disinfectant.
Urban struggled with the Brown and Public Records acts; its board’s inability to fully grasp transparent governance was appalling. This became apparent when it fired the head of the school by not renewing her contract.
The meeting agenda where that occurred was barren of facts, listing only a routine job review, not a critical decision on whether to retain her. I asked questions and two days later met with very nervous board members, former Oakland schools official Hae-Sin Thomas and then board co-chair Randy Weiner. They lacked good answers. They also said they knew who the new administrator would be, even though there’d been no meeting about that yet.
“We hope you were impressed with us,” Weiner said oddly as we parted. I wasn’t.
The replacement, David Castillo, had recently resigned from Urban’s board. Like Thomas, he was an active member of the charter-school movement. They considered no one else. His hiring stunk of cronyism.
Then the board tried to approve Castillo’s contract at a special meeting, an action banned under the Brown Act’s post Bell-scandal reforms. I objected; the vote was aborted.
I checked the board’s Statements of Economic Interest. Most absurdly claimed no income or assets. A few Googles and emails later, board co-chairs Weiner and Tony Emerson filed amended forms identifying jobs and holdings.
These forms aren’t hard. Read instructions. Be honest. Err toward disclosure. This doesn’t qualify one for NASA. Failing to do so raises this question: If they can’t get simple disclosure right, what else is amiss? Well …
A board member, Peter Laub, was vice president of a firm, Ed Tech, that provides financial services to charter schools, Urban included. The conflict of interest was obvious, festering for two years. Laub resigned his seat; the company remained.
The board took macro views of shaky finances. It didn’t vote on bills. Members didn’t know employee salaries, or where money went on a daily basis. Bills and credit card receipts showed fat balances, accruing interest and sometimes late charges.
I’ve spent what seems like a lifetime sifting through government financial records. I’ve never quite seen a mess like Urban’s. Fraternities with unlimited credit would keep better records.
Castillo spent generously on meals. Text messages he and Thomas exchanged didn’t focus as much on education as on paying for booze at a staff party. Thomas rejected using school money for alcohol. Urban barely paid bills, and parents bought basic supplies. Yet its chief argued for party cash. (Full disclosure, I still owe Urban a small amount of money for after-school care.)
But it was my kids’ school. I volunteered for a transparency committee. It accomplished little. In July, I found that the board held a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. at Thomas’ home to renew Castillo’s contract. I forced a public revote. Given the board’s try at the same shady move just months earlier, members clearly cared not to change. I resigned.
Urban released documents under the Public Records Act showing its faults. Texts. Emails. Bills. Receipts. But Harris’ opinion writers would be foolish to think disclosure’s the charter-school norm, and this issue has landed on the dimwit side of Brown’s brain.
The last thing Harris should do is enable public funds to pour into ratholes without accountability.
Thomas Peele is an investigative reporter for this newspaper and teaches classes on public records at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him atTwitter.com/Thomas_peele.
Madison, Wisconsin – The federal government has spent more than $3.3 billion over the past two decades creating and fueling the charter school industry, according to a new financial analysis and reporters’ guide by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). (The new guide can be downloaded below.)
Despite the huge sums spent so far, the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to “authorize” charters that receive federal funds. And despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program – designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools – the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48% in FY 2016.
CMD’s review of internal audits reveals that ED did not act quickly or effectively on numerous reports that state education officials had no idea where the federal funds ended up. The documents also show that ED knowingly awarded grants to states with no statutory oversight over charter authorizers and schools as the grant applications are evaluated based on how much “flexibility” from state laws charter schools have.
As a result of lax oversight on the federal level, combined with many state laws that hide charter finances from the public eye, taxpayers are left in the dark about how much federal money each charter school has received and what has been wasted or spent to enrich charter school administrators and for-profit corporations who get lucrative outsourcing contracts from charters, behind closed doors.
“The Department of Education is pushing for an unprecedented expansion of charter schools while paying lip service to accountability, but independent audit materials show that the Department’s lofty rhetoric is simply not backed up by its actions,” noted Jonas Persson, a writer for the Center for Media and Democracy, a national watchdog group that publishes PRWatch.org, ALECexposed.org, and SourceWatch.org, adding, “the lack of tough financial controls and the lack of public access to information about how charters are spending federal tax dollars has almost inevitably led to enormous fraud and waste.”
CMD’s guide, “New Documents Show How Taxpayer Money Is Wasted by Charter Schools – Stringent Controls Urgently Needed as Charter Funding Faces Huge Increase,” analyzes materials obtained from open records requests about independent audits of how states interact with charter school authorizers and charter schools.
These documents, along with the earlier Inspector General report, reveal systemic barriers to common sense financial controls. Revealing quotes from those audit materials, highlighted in CMD’s report, show that too often states have had untrained staff doing unsystematic reviews of authorizers and charter schools while lacking statutory authority and adequate funding to fully assess how federal money is being spent by charters.
In many instances, states have no idea how charter schools actually spent federal monies and they have no systematic way of obtaining that information or making sure it is accurate.
Meanwhile, charter school advocates within state agencies and private entities have sought to prevent strong financial controls and reporting systems backed up by government oversight.
“It is astonishing that the federal government has spent more than $3 billion dollars directly on charter schools and is poised to commit another $350 million on their expansion this year, even though charters have failed to perform better than traditional public schools overall and have performed far worse when it comes to fraud and waste,” noted Lisa Graves, CMD’s Executive Director.
She added: “This result is not surprising since many charter school advocates have pushed to create a system that allows charters to get federal funds without federal controls on how that money is spent–but it should not be acceptable for so much of taxpayers’ money to be spent this way, with no requirement that the public be told how much money each and every charter school receives, how much each spends on high-paid charter executives, how much money makes it to the classroom, and how much is outsourced to for-profit firms.”
In CMD’s view, “There is no doubt that American school children and American taxpayers are getting short-changed by the charter school system that is siphoning money away from traditional public schools.”
Download a copy of CMD’s full report below. You can also read excerpts of responses to open records requests via CMD’s SourceWatch, such as the corrective action planimposed by the ED Office of the Inspector General after a scathing 2012 audit.