There is a saying invoked when a person is obviously in over his or her head in their professional role: It’s not what you know, but who you know. I thought about this when I read that Georgia was ranked #4 for its charter school law, by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. This is especially interesting when you consider that the Center for Education Reform’s recent Charter School Report Card assigned a grade of ‘C’ to Georgia. One of the explanations cited for Georgia’s ‘average’ grade was the fact that the newly-formed Charter School Commission is still, in large part, controlled by the Georgia Department of Education. For further explanation on Georgia’s grade, see ‘Georgia’s Charter School Law receives a ‘C.’
Out of curiosity, I visited the alliance’s site to see how Indiana ranked. According to this report, Indiana ranked 29th. I find that laughable considering the fact that the state has had two independent authorizers: The Mayor of Indianapolis and Ball State University. In fact, Indiana was one of the first states to use the mayor of a major city as an authorizer. Furthermore, all charter schools must be non-profits and oeprate as such. This practice has been called into question here in Georgia, as EMOs/CMOs are making up to $1 million per charter school in management fees, facility leasing fees, and professional development costs. The CER report assigned a grade of ‘B’ to Indiana; again, Georgia received a ‘C.’ How can the results from these two reports be so different?
So what’s really going on? Sometimes, peoples actions and motives are transparent; other times, a little digging and connecting the dots is required. I checked the bios on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools board of directors. Interesting to say the least. One of the directors has ties to KIPP; another is the CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Believe it or not, former Mayor of Indianapolis Bart Peterson is also a member. Yes, that is the same mayor responsible for supporting and growing the charter school community in Indianapolis. Damn. That almost makes me want to retract the nice things I said about him earlier. I wonder if he actually read the report and noticed that Indiana received such a horrible ranking? Probably not. Oh yeah, Joel Klein is also a member of the board of directors. One thing positive that I can say about the board’s membership is that it accurately reflects the population of students being served by charter schools across the country; that is certainly more than I can say for the Georgia Charter School Commission, Charter Schools Association, and State Board of Education. Minorities are truly a minority in those arenas.
I guess Indiana should (and probably doesn’t) feel too slighted. Afterall, the CER report is likely more reliable and least likely to be influenced by board members and donation sizes. Besides, it could be worse: They could have received an ‘F’ like Virginia. I guess that explains why Charter School Commission member Gerard Robinson jumped ship and accepted the Secretary of Education position in Virginia. I guess that also explains why he has not extended me the professional courtesy of responding to a letter sent December 12, 2009. Oh well. Upon seeing him interact with the ol’ boys, I knew exactly how to categorize his intentions and motives.
I still don’t know how these two reports could have such disparities in grading charter school laws. But I do know that those who travel in the TFA, KIPP, New Leaders New Schools cults elitist circles certainly look out for each other. Afterall, Andrew Broy is a TFA alumnus. At this rate, I think the charter school movement could put the old-school mafia out of business for good. I guess those who believe that politics make for strange ‘bedfellows’ have never delved into the underworld of public education.