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Articles in the Charter Schools category

Are charter schools really cheaper to run?

This is republished from NSBA’s Center for Public Education’s The EDifier blog by Jim Hull, Senior Policy Analyst.

A new study from the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas claims that charter schools are 40 percent more productive than traditional public schools. They found that for every $1000 invested, charter schools obtain approximately a year and half more in student learning than traditional public schools — meaning, in essence, charter schools can be just as effective as traditional public schools at nearly half the cost.

These are incredibly strong findings for charter schools. If charter schools can do everything traditional public schools do at nearly half the cost why shouldn’t policymakers invest more in their expansion? The problem is this study doesn’t even attempt to determine if charter schools can provide the same services with fewer funds than traditional public schools. While the study excludes funding for pre-k and adult education from their calculations — services many traditional schools offer but most charter schools don’t — the authors did not make any adjustments for the fact that:

      • Traditional public schools are much more likely than charter schools to provide costly services such as transportation and extracurricular activities such as athletics, band, theater, and civic clubs.
      • A smaller proportion of charter schools than traditional public schools are high schools which typically require significantly more funding than elementary and middle schools.
      • Traditional public schools enroll a larger proportion of special needs students such as special education and English Language Learners (ELL) who typically require more funding than the average student. This is especially true for severely disabled students which typically cost districts four times more to educate than the average student. However, charter schools rarely enroll severely disabled students.
      • A number of charter schools are located in buildings owned by traditional public schools at no or reduced costs to the charter school. Even though by doing so traditional public school are in fact subsidizing charter schools, this is not accounted for within the study so it appears that traditional public schools are using more funds than charter schools.

The authors claim they did not make these and other adjustments, “To avoid the appearance of taking an advocacy position…” However, making an apples to apples comparison of how much funding charter schools receive to provide similar services as traditional public schools is not taking an advocacy position. It can be done with objective statistics.

Yet, as the authors note doing so is extremely difficult, if not impossible, as it would take going through every line item of the budgets for both charter schools and traditional public school districts. While indeed it would an arduous undertaking, it is the only way to accurately determine if charter schools can educate our students as well as traditional public schools but at a lower cost.

Until such a study is conducted that at least attempts to compare the funding for similar services provided, such claims that charter schools are more productive than traditional public schools cannot be substantiated.

Jim Hull|July 23rd, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Center for Public Education|Tags: |

Investigation finds poor results at Michigan’s charter schools

Michigan taxpayers spend nearly $1 billion annually to support the state’s 370 charter schools, but there’s little transparency in how that money is spent—and many poor-performing charters aren’t held accountable.

Those are among the findings of a recent Detroit Free Press investigation that has put the spotlight on failures in Michigan’s charter school policy.

For their money, the newspaper makes clear, state taxpayers aren’t finding that charter schools offer any improvement in student academic performance. Although many excellent charters exist, 38 percent fall below the 25th percentile in state rankings, compared to 23 percent of traditional schools.

What’s more, the Free Press uncovered a pattern of wasteful spending, financial conflicts of interest, and interference in the efforts of charter school boards to provide oversight.“Michigan laws regulating charters are among the nation’s weakest,” it reports.

Some of the state’s problems appear to be related to the proliferation of for-profit management companies, which today operate more than 60 percent of the state’s charter schools. “The state’s failure to insist on more financial transparency by for-profits—teacher salaries, executive compensation, vendor payments and more—is particularly troubling to charter critics because the for-profit companies receive the bulk of the money that goes to charter schools.”

Charter school board members who have attempted to demand some accountability for these funds reportedly found themselves threatened or forced out of office by the school’s authorizers.

Failures by the Michigan Department of Education to hold charter school authorizers accountable also came to light. According to the Free Press, a majority of the worst-ranked charter schools in the state have been open for a decade or more.

At the same time, state officials reportedly have never suspended a charter school authorizer for the poor performance of its schools.

In response to the Free Press’ findings, the state’s school superintendent, Mike Flanagan, gave public notice that he was ready to hold charter school authorizers accountable for the poor performance of their schools and was willing to “suspend an authorizer’s ability to open new charter schools.”

Check out how state charter school policies are shaping the charter school and education landscape, read the American School Board Journal article and view the video.

Del Stover|July 10th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, Charter Schools, School Reform, Reports|Tags: , , |

PDK chief shares insight on nation’s views of public education

Bill Bushaw, the Executive Director of Phi Delta Kappa International, discussed the top issues and key findings from the 2013 PDK/Gallup poll on public schools with the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Board of Directors this week.

The annual poll, one of the most comprehensive surveys of this country’s attitudes toward public education, consistently has shown strong support for local public schools. In particular it recently has found that parents of children in public schools are giving their schools increasingly high grades, with the majority giving their oldest child’s school a grade of “A” or “B.”

At his presentation to NSBA, Bushaw discussed key topics from the 2013 data that included Common Core State Standards, school safety, school choice, and vouchers, among others. For the 2014 report, which will be released later this summer, Bushaw noted that the analysis will include data on international comparisons.

He noted that PDK/Gallup’s data show confusion around the Common Core State Standards. More generally, the public also has expressed a lack of confidence in standardized testing.

Other discussion included:

  • Seven in 10 Americans favor charter schools. However, it is uncertain whether the public is aware of the national data that shows charter performance overall is murky. NSBA supports local school board authorization of charter schools to ensure accountability for student performance and fiscal stewardship.
  • Conversely, seven in 10 adults oppose vouchers that use public funds to pay private tuition.
  • The top skills parents desire include: critical thinking (80 percent), communication, and goal setting.
  • There is an interesting right-hand, left-hand disconnect between the public’s perception of a neighborhood school versus the public education system as a whole: Most surveyed give their own local schools an “A” or “B,” but give the nation’s public schools a “C” for quality.
  • The public expresses great trust and confidence in public school teachers and principals.

Bushaw noted that the poll is made up of a sampling of more than 1,000 adults.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 9th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, Charter Schools, Educational Research, Common Core State Standards|

Gentzel calls for school board oversight of charters in USA Today letter

Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) said that federal legislation on charter school law should recognize the need for accountability for student performance in charters, given the low performance of the majority of charter schools. His letter to the editor was published in the May 21, 2014 issue of USA Today.

Gentzel wrote, “In 2013, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes revealed that only 25% and 29% of charters outperformed traditional public schools in reading and math assessments, respectively. These low percentages were actually an improvement over the 2009 data. CREDO attributed many of the improvements to the actions that authorizers — key among these local school boards — are taking to close down ineffective charter schools.

“Strong local governance matters. It cannot and should not be excluded from education reform initiatives. To give America’s schoolchildren strong accountability centered on student outcomes, the National School Boards Association calls for local school boards to serve as the sole authorizers of charter schools.”

USA Today also published comments from Twitter related to charter schools. Read more.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 21st, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Privatization, Educational Research, Board governance, Policy Formation, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , |

In Huffington Post column, Gentzel calls for vigilance in Brown decision

To mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel reflected on the impact of the decision and the challenges that public schools still face. The following commentary was published by the Huffington Post:

 

In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a timeless and transformative message: All students deserve a great public education; separate systems are not equal.

In marking the 60th anniversary of this landmark Supreme Court ruling, it is important to reflect upon the ongoing effect of Brown v. Board of Education on the work of America’s school boards and our nation’s public schools. Enshrining this decision as a historic relic does not serve the nine out of 10 school-age children who attend our nation’s public schools. To protect students’ rights, freedoms and ready access to a high-quality education, we must actively heed the central tenets of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is particularly concerned about the unintended consequences of privatization through vouchers, charter schools not governed by local school boards, and other means that research indicates are leading to the re-segregation of public schools, mainly in high-poverty urban areas.

In its most recent issue, NSBA’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal, reports that the number of schools with a minority enrollment above 90 percent has climbed precipitously. Similarly, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California-Los Angeles also has reported that African-American and Hispanic students are increasingly segregated at the schools they attend.

Ironically, this comes at a time when America’s public schools are becoming much more diverse. The percentage of students who are white dropped from 61 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2010, and today stands at about 50 percent. Schools in the south and west now have a majority of minority students, according to the National Center on Education Statistics. And with more than half of babies born today falling into a minority classification, demographics will continue to diversify. At the same time, poverty and other risk factors also have increased.

Our lawmakers must continue to look at the entire public education system to ensure that we invest in our public schools and give them the support that is needed, rather than diverting scarce taxpayer dollars to voucher schemes and charter schools that lack local school district oversight. Today more than ever, it is essential that we continue to focus on ensuring that every child has access to an excellent and equitable education.

Data show public schools are educating today’s diverse student population to higher levels than ever before. We should be proud that our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high — about 80 percent of students graduate on time, and when late graduates are included, the graduation rate rises to more than 85 percent. The graduation rate of Hispanics, the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, jumped from 61 percent to 76 percent between 2006 and 2012. And African-American students made significant gains during this period, improving their graduation rate from 59 percent to 68 percent.

Brown v. Board of Education honors a truth core to our nation’s democracy: to provide a strong education to each and every child who enters our nation’s public school system. We must stay focused on investing equitably in our public schools and students, ensuring that they have the resources and support they need, and we must not be diverted by programs that have the effect of re-segregating America’s public education system. We must honor Brown v. Board of Education‘s intention for every child to achieve, and we must insist that every child in America has access to a great public school where they live. No exceptions; no excuses.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 19th, 2014|Categories: School Law, Charter Schools, Diversity, Privatization, Urban Schools, Board governance, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , , |

New report finds Ohio charter schools are failing

A new report from the Ohio School Boards Association, “Guide to Charter or Community Schools,” says that while it was hoped that the freedom and flexibility provided to charter and community schools would raise student achievement, 22 years after the charter movement began, such expectations have yet to be realized.

The guide reports that while a few charter or community schools are among the best schools in Ohio, most of the lowest performing schools are charter or community schools. More than 60 percent of Ohio’s charter or community schools were rated “D” or “F” on 2012-13 State Report Cards. Only 20 percent of Ohio’s traditional public schools were rated “D” or “F.” The majority of Ohio’s traditional schools—more than 50 percent—were rated “A” or “B.” The guide says that when only test scores—including SAT and ACT scores—are considered, traditional public schools consistently outperform charters across the nation.

The guide also reports that deeper analysis of the data shows that charter or community schools focusing on student achievement and discipline can improve low-income student performance.

The guide points out that every Ohio student that leaves a traditional public school to attend a charter or community school takes $5,800 in tax revenue with them every year, which would have gone to the student’s school district, reducing resources to fund traditional schools.

Margaret Suslick|May 14th, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Public Advocacy|Tags: , , |

School boards disapprove of Congress’s attempt to expand charter schools

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), the leading advocate for public education representing more than 90,000 local school board members, is opposed to H.R. 10, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, which is scheduled for a floor vote this week.

Decisions regarding charter schools should rest with the state and the local school board, not federal lawmakers, NSBA contends.  The legislation also fails to recognize that to protect student outcomes, charter schools should be authorized exclusively by the local school board.

“Charter schools absent school board oversight have far less accountability for student achievement than traditional public schools,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director.  “The school board governance model protects student outcomes for the many, not the few, and strives to resolve inequities in educational delivery and service.”

Further, lawmakers must focus on adequately funding the primary system of public education instead of creating a secondary system of education that siphons off essential funding. With multiple chartering authorities, local school districts can be adversely impacted as the per-pupil expenditures are re-allocated or deducted from operational revenue essential to maintain already cash-strapped school district operations.

America’s school boards agree that charter schools are facing challenges with overwhelming operational costs, facilities in need of repair or renovation, and technical support vital toward improved teaching and learning—yet traditional public schools grapple daily with these very same challenges.

“The future of America is dependent on ready access to a high-quality education,” said Gentzel. “If Congress passes legislation to help states and local communities improve the quality of their public schools absent federal intrusion, we applaud it, but this should apply to all students equally, not just those enrolled in charter schools. The call to action the legislation raises is that our nation must create a level playing field for public charter schools and traditional public schools alike.”

Alexis Rice|May 8th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, Charter Schools, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , , |

California School Boards Association’s President takes on Netflix CEO’s call for privatization for school boards

Josephine Lucey, President of the California School Boards Association and a Cupertino Union School District board member, took on Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ controversial assertion that voter-elected school boards hamper sustainable school improvement. Lucey’s opinion, published on the San Francisco Chronicle’s open online forum, points out what Hastings seems to have forgotten, “Public oversight of local government is the foundation of American democracy.”

Hastings spoke at the 2014 California Charter Schools Conference in San Jose, Calif., on March 4. His talk spoke directly about the “good people trying to do good work” on school boards, but that the political process made it harder for improvements to stick. Instead, Hasting wants public school boards to elect their own leaders, much like a non-profit or private enterprise.

Turning to privatization of school boards, Lucey counters, would be akin to suggesting that publicly owned corporations have no responsibility to listen to their shareholders. Who is there to keep the board accountable if not for voters?

“About $61 billion in public money is spent on public schools in California annually,” writes Lucey. “To suggest that voters shouldn’t have a say in who runs their local schools doesn’t sound like America at all.”

As for Hastings’ declaration that school boards “oscillate” with turnover instead of improve, Lucey reminds Hastings that as one-time member, he should remember that California has dedicated school board members, noting, “As a former member of the California State Board of Education, Hastings should know that local school board member tenure is pretty high, as California School Board Association members average more than 8.5 years of service.”

Staff|March 31st, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools|Tags: , , , |

Public advocacy is a must, NSBA panelists tell school boards

School board members must speak up and speak out about the successes and challenges of their local public schools, panelists told 750 school board members at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) first annual Advocacy Institute.

Competing interests — including those who want to privatize the system — are already defining the message and potentially putting school boards and public schools out of business, some media experts warned.

NSBA also announced its national campaign, which will promote public schools and help local school board members engage their constituents. The campaign includes a new website and national print and online advertisements featuring celebrities such as former NBA star and education advocate Earvin “Magic” Johnson, television personality Montel Williams, and Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.

Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, noted that last year’s annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on public education reported an all-time high — 53 percent — of Americans surveyed graded their local public schools with an A or B. Nearly three quarters of public school parents would give the school their oldest child attends an A or a B. However, when asked about the nation’s public schools overall, only 18 percent gave public education an A or B.

And those results —  support for  local public schools, but skepticism of public education in general  — were mirrored in several other poll questions, Busteed said. “There is a huge gap between the reality of the local level and nationally.”

Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss, who writes The Answer Sheet blog, told school board members  that they must do a better job working with local and national media. That means finding important stories about their community’s public schools and bringing them to journalists.

“When you don’t speak up, your critics define you, and that’s what’s happening,” she said. “I don’t hear much from you, either individually or as groups.”

Further, school board members should understand student performance data in order to rebut false claims about public education. “You have to play the data game and you have to do it better,” Strauss added.

In an earlier panel, NSBA invited school voucher advocates, including representatives from the CATO Institute and the American Federation for Children (AFC), organizations that have pushed for expanded school choice, to present their ideas and K-12 platforms. While the panel was designed to showcase oppositional ideas, the panelists and school board members found common ground with CATO’s dislike of federal regulations and AFC Executive Counsel Kevin P. Chavous’ remarks on the need for student achievement.

 

Lawrence Hardy|February 5th, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized, Charter Schools, School Vouchers, School Reform, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , |

NSBA featured in major media on school choice concerns

After Republicans introduced legislation that would allow states to send up to $24 billion in federal funding toward school choice programs, National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel offered a reality check on the performance of charter schools, vouchers, and other measures. Gentzel appeared on Fox News and was quoted in The Washington Post and The New York Times stories on the measure.

“We certainly haven’t seen any consistent evidence anywhere in the country that these kinds of programs are effective or producing better results,” said Gentzel, who appeared on a segment during Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier on the Senate proposal, introduced this week by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has introduced legislation in the House that also would include some students with disabilities and use funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Watch the video segment.

In the New York Times article, Gentzel countered proponents of school choice who claim that traditional public schools have not improved fast enough, and that low-income families should have other choices.

“The big issue is really that lack of accountability,” Gentzel told the Times. “Frankly, our view is every child should have access to a great public school where they live.”

In The Washington Post, Gentzel discussed Alexander’s proposal, the “Scholarships for Kids Act,” which would allow states to create $2,100 scholarships from existing federal K-12 programs, including Title I, to “follow” 11 million children whose families meet the federal to any public or private school of their parents’ choice. The total cost would be $24 billion—41 percent of the current federal education allotment.

“School choice is a well-funded and politically powerful movement seeking to privatize much of American education,” he told the Post. “We’re not against public charters, and there are some that are well-motivated. . . . But our goal is that public schools be schools of choice. We need to invest and support public schools, not divert money and attention from them to what amounts, in many cases, to experiments.”

Reginald Felton, NSBA’s Interim Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, also told Governing magazine that Title I would inevitably face cuts under Lamar’s plan, along with other programs that benefit disadvantaged children. For states that would choose not to opt into the proposed program, that means less money is available for their most vulnerable populations, he said.

“It’s hard for us to believe that a $24 billion reallocation could exist without drastically reducing funding for Title I students,” he told Governing.

The Ohio Schools Boards Association (OSBA) recently showcased how funding to choice programs hurts neighborhood public schools. In its December newsletter, OSBA notes, “Ohio Department of Education data shows traditional public schools will lose more than $870 million in state funding to charter schools in fiscal year (FY) 2014. That’s an increase of 5.4 percent over FY 2013, when approximately $824 million was transferred from traditional public schools to charters. This increase comes amid ongoing reports of charter school mismanagement, conflicts of interest and felony indictments and convictions.”

According to CREDO (Center for Research on Educational Outcomes) research on charters, states that empower multiple authorizing agencies are more likely to report the weakest academic results for charter schools. Local governance – enacted by local school boards – offers transparency and accountability along with a direct focus on student achievement versus profit.

In 2008, 64 percent of Ohio’s charter schools were on academic watch or emergency status, compared to 9 percent of traditional public schools, according to “The Regulation of Charter Schools” in the Jan./Feb. issue of American School Board Journal.

While the state changed its regulations in 2008, ASBJ cites the case of Hope Academy Cathedral, a K-8 charter school in Cleveland, as an example of the loopholes that exist in Ohio’s charter law. The school was ordered to close in 2011 after repeatedly being rated as in “academic emergency.”

Less than two months later, a new K-8 charter — Woodland Academy — opened in the same building, with 15 returning staff members, the same authorizer, and the same for-profit management firm, wrote ASBJ Senior Editor Del Stover. In its first year of operation, the new charter school also was judged to be in academic emergency.

 

 

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