Archive for the ‘charter management organizations’ Tag

Teacher Unions: Two sides to every story   2 comments

Going through my Twitter stream, I see this article: Black parents vs. the Teachers’ Union. First thought: What the (bleep)? Are they serious? Have we come to using the union as the Boogeyman to scare parents into leaving public schools and adding their child’s name to a long-arse waiting list at a *charter school? Seriously? Quite frankly, the union and teacher-bashing is tired and played-out because it solves no-thing…absolutely no-thing! For those of us who keep-up with the monumental changes in education, we know what’s happening: Right before our eyes, public education is rapidly becoming privatized by people with the big checkbooks. Sure, education needs serious reform but money is not the primary (or even secondary) solution to what ails our system. Top-down reform is needed now. What’s even scarier: Our president appointed a man with no classroom experience to make these monumental decisions. For those who insist that one need not have classroom experience to lead our country’s education system, please refer to all of the research on the debacle ‘miracle’ in Chicago. And then get back to me.

As someone who has worked in a state without a teachers’ union, I can attest to the horrible and toxic working conditions (not referring to kids) in some of Georgia’s schools. I have seen teachers get cursed out by administrators, in front of students. And we wonder why kids think that type of behavior is acceptable. I have witnessed teachers get harassed by principals and other teachers for no other reason than the simple fact they were excellent teachers. You know when you come into an organization that accepts mediocrity as the standard, you are asking for trouble when you raise the bar for your students and colleagues. No, I am not making-up these stories; my left-brain is an underachiever. I couldn’t make-up this stuff even if I tried. Or wanted to. Ask any teacher working in a non-union state if they’d prefer to have some form of organized and committed representation. I am sure they’d say ‘Yes.’ But then again, that’s just me basing my assumption on what I have seen and experienced. I have yet to come across any horror stories about unions from teachers. If anyone reading this knows of any, I would certainly appreciate links. If that’s not argument enough, look at the most recent NAEP data. Which states performed in the top and bottom ten? Union or non-union states? I already know the answer.

So we can’t get the support we need by pitting teachers against (Black) parents, teachers against teachers, and labeling overworked and inadequately supported teachers as ineffective, so we start using scare tactics to convince Black parents that unions and public schools will be the downfall of education. (NOTE: Education failed Black and Brown kids years ago.) Where were these arguments 9-10 years ago before NCLB? How about 10-15 years before that? It’s ironic how, now that billions of additional dollars are at play, institutions that have been around to protect the rights of workers (that is the purpose of a union) are now being used as a scapegoat for everything that’s wrong with public education? When will school, district, and state administrators be forced to own-up to their roles in under-staffed schools, inadequate instructional resources, and piss-poor professional development? There’s enough blame to go around in this crisis. Let’s share the wealth. Besides, the last time I checked, teachers and unions do not vote on curriculum, education policy, budgets, etc. Those decisions are made by local and state boards of education. I guess I am the only one who sees that. Perhaps I need my eyes checked. On second thought, nah. I know there are teachers who would be saying the same things if they didn’t fear losing their jobs. Alas, they don’t have the 1st Amendment protection like teachers who belong to a union. Sucks to be them.

As we (true educators) say: Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, go to the central office.

*I am not anti-charter. I support charter schools that stick to the original intent of the idea, not those that choose to only open in districts where at least 70% of students qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch, or those that lock groups into 99-year lease agreements making it nearly impossible to end the ‘business’ relationship.

Have Charter Management Organizations run amok?   3 comments

More than a decade after the first charter school was created to foster an environment of teacher autonomy and school choice, ‘charter school’ has become a household phrase. Even television sitcoms such as ‘The New Adventures of Old Christine’ have given shout-outs to charter schools. Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools have more flexibility with regard to educational model, school calendar, uniforms, and requiring parental involvement through mandatory volunteer hours. The Obama Administration’s push to improve public education by supporting charter schools through replication and conversion of failing public schools has catapulted the free school choice option to the forefront of the Race to the Top competition.

Some entrepreneurs have discovered that providing free school choice is a lucrative business. Charter Management Organizations (CMO) such as Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and Imagine have demonstrated that students from low-income backgrounds, typically minority, can succeed if given the proper learning environment. While I do not discount the accomplishments of such organizations, I do question the method used to select where the charter schools will be located. For example, some companies only open schools in districts where 70% or more of the students qualify for Free and Reduced Meal Programs. Does that mean students in districts where only 50-60% of the students qualify for those meals are less worthy of a research-based school choice option?

Upon reviewing the list of charter petitions awaiting approval by Georgia’s Charter Commission, many red flags went up. Charter Schools Administration Services (CSAS) has two petitions under review: one for Academy of Fulton County and another for Academy of Lithonia. CSAS presented budgets for both schools with management fees of $609,000 per year, per school. An additional $300K and $400K were added for the leasing of the facilities, respectively. Each school would also pay $56,000 in interest on funds loaned through CSAS. These figures are especially troubling when one considers the fact that only 500 students are or will be enrolled; the average per pupil revenues in the metro-Atlanta area are roughly $8,000. Regardless of additional, unforeseen expenses, the charter schools would have to pay CSAS first. It has been reported that CSAS and other CMO’s are currently under investigation by the IRS, as they operate as non-profit organizations; however, their profit margins say otherwise.

If school districts are genuinely concerned about ‘losing’ students to charter schools (Read: Losing the money), common sense should prevail: Create charters and convert some of the existing schools to charters, thereby providing parents, regardless of income or zip code, equal access to school choice options. Instead, some districts make it impossible for grassroots groups to create charter schools by denying all applications and challenging the state’s ability to authorize additional schools.