It’s 9/11. Read the recollections on the web. Watch the tributes on television. Ponder. And please remember that Democracy was the target. The cornerstone of Democracy is public education. Can we redouble our efforts to save and support public education?
Wall Street Journal says elected school boards are passé—especially in big districts
Last week, blogger Peter Greene, aka Curmudgucation, told us:
Behind the paywall at Wall Street Journal, Chester Finn (honcho emeritus of the Thomas Fordham Institute), Bruno V. Manno (Walton Foundation), and Brandon Wright (Fordham) are happy to announce the death of one more piece of democracy in this country.
The trio reports that charter schools are spearheading a "quiet revolution" in local control. Because, like Reed Hastings (Netflix), they are happy to see the local elected school board die.
Oh, the elected school board was fine back in the day. "This setup functioned well for an agrarian and small-town society in which people spent their entire lives in one place, towns paid for their own schools, and those schools met most of the workforce needs of the local community." But this set-up does not work for a "country of mobile and cosmopolitan citizens." Not with money coming from the state and feds, and not when "discontent with educational outcomes is rampant." What does that mean? Where is the evidence? What do you mean?! Didn't you hear him? The discontent is rampant! Rampant, I tell you!
Also, they want you to know that some school districts are really, really big. So big that elected boards are no longer "public spirited civic leaders" but are now a "gaggle of aspiring politicians and teacher-union surrogates." Because gaggles of aspiring politicians are far worse than gaggles of aspiring financial masters of the universe. Hedge fund managers are known for their altruism (remember how altruistic Wall Street was back in 2008). Not that these guys are going to mention that the folks behind the great charter revolution are mostly hedge funders and money changers…There's more at Curmudgucation.blogspot.com.
El Camino Real = The Royal Road
After blaming its own alleged financial violations on the Los Angeles Unified School District for failing to provide enough oversight of the independent charter school, El Camino Real Charter High School is refusing to hand over the investigative report it commissioned. That’s rich.
Such is the Royal Road to charter accountability in California.
El Camino can’t quite get its story straight on the reasons it’s hiding the report. The Royal Road’s attorney says it’s because the report contains personnel matters. If the report is used for a personnel evaluation, that evaluation is subject to confidentiality, not the report. Just like a report about a robbery would be public, and then also might be used in a personnel evaluation that would be confidential. Just like an iPad contract would be public, and the evaluation of the superintendent who might have fixed it would be private. Other examples abound.
Then there’s the Royal Road’s argument that it’s covered under attorney-client privilege, according to the Los Angeles Daily News (full article text below).
The investigative vendor, Oracle Investigations Group, is not a law firm. How can its report be covered under attorney client privilege?
If the school’s attorney commissioned the report, it seems that would have been part of the discussion when the president of El Camino’s board asked his board colleagues to approve the hiring of Oracle. But it never came up.
The Los Angeles Daily News reported that discussion back in June:
“Now the El Camino high board of directors has decided to launch an independent financial probe of the popular principal’s spending. The forensic accounting comes ahead of a year-long management assistance review by a state financial turnaround agency prompted by the credit card scandal.
“I want guidance from agencies to tighten up the (school fiscal) policy,” El Camino board Chairman Jonathan Wasser said after a unanimous vote late Wednesday to pay for the probe of its principal. “I believe in due process.
“We need to have the forensic accounting look over all the information because it’s big, and I’m not an accountant, and it requires somebody trained to look over the evidence.”
El Camino might not be an outlier.
Everybody's doing it
In this KPCC report, charter schools advocates are blaming school districts' lack of expertise in oversight for the ACLU's recent report showing 1 in 5 California charters illegally discriminating in enrollment. They say it's all just a big mistake and if the school boards had the expertise, they could have just told the charter schools to stop requiring a birth certificate or a student essay or a parent's volunteer contract in their enrollment packets. A state oversight commission would seem like a good idea if you wanted to focus on one appointed board instead of all these hundreds of pesky elected school boards throughout the state.
The wild, wild west
The Washington Post asks “How messed up is California’s charter school sector? You won’t believe how much.” Education reporter Valerie Strauss gives her column to Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE) who visited the wild, wild west to write a report on California’s charters. I’m glad to have had a chance to sit down with her and highlight the lowlights. The report is the first of four she will be writing.
Perfect timing! There are two charter accountability measures on the Governor’s desk.
Is the Charter Schools Association supporting El Camino’s earlier call for more oversight by urging its members to push the governor to sign them? Nah.
In an email to its members, it urges:
Ask Governor Brown to veto AB 709. AB 709 would apply a series of conflict of interest laws to charter schools. CCSA opposes AB 709 because it would impose Government Code 1090 on charter schools, remove important flexibility for charter school governance, and cost charter schools time and money spent on compliance that is better spent in the classroom. AB 709 is nearly identical to a conflict of interest bill from the last legislative session that was opposed by CCSA and vetoed by Governor Brown.
Please help us ensure Governor Brown hears loud and clear that AB 709 is bad for charter schools and charter school students, and should be vetoed. Send a letter today!
At last count, the CCSA was looking for 8,350 more letters.
The CCSA is also urging passage of AB 1198 – Assembly member Matt Dababneh proposed this bill to help charter schools buy or build facilities or refinance existing debt, even through personal deals with their own board members. 1198 passed through the legislature unanimously.
The NPE is circulating its own letter:
It is time for sensible regulation of charter schools in the State of California. Stories of illegal selection practices and even outright fraud and corruption are far too commonplace. Millions of tax dollars are wasted, even as millions more are drained from public school districts.
If you have not read our recent report on California charter schools, please read it now. You can find it here.
Write Governor Brown today. We make it easy. Just click here. Ask him to sign two bills that are sitting on his desk today.
AB 709 requires charter schools to abide by the same oversight as district public schools, like the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act, because they spend public funds. Yet this reasonable measure is being fought by the powerful California Charter School Association lobby.
SB 739 puts a stop to one school district approving a charter in another district. It’s hard to believe this is allowed, but it happens. This bill would allow charter authorizers to place charter schools only in their own districts.
Write today by clicking here. Then share the link with neighbors and friends.
I listened in on a short conference call about AB 709, with its author, Assembly member Mike Gipson, State Treasurer John Chiang, LAUSD Board member George McKenna, Anaheim Superintendent Michael Matsuda, the California Teachers Association, the ACLU, and the Center for Popular Democracy, and now you can, too.
My favorite school district
Last week, the LAUSD board held its first Budget and Facilities meeting at which board members were to bring ideas for the year’s agenda. I was told no one mentioned Prop 39, which requires school districts to hand over empty classrooms to charter schools. I was told no one mentioned bond measures.
Tuesday, September 13th is the first Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting. 10am in the Board room.