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January 6, 2017

Arianna Prothero, Education Week

With President-elect Donald Trump's selection of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos to head up the U.S. Department of Education in his administration, there's been a lot of focus on school choice in Michigan. The DeVoses have been influential advocates and philanthropic supporters of school choice policies in their home state and beyond—helping launch and shape Michigan's charter school sector over the last two decades. But the DeVoses are also big proponents of school vouchers, which allow students to use public money to attend a private school. So if the DeVoses have been so successful in influencing charter school policy in the state, why doesn't Michigan have a single voucher program? The answer has to do with something in the state's constitution called a Blaine Amendment.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

A little-known county board overruled its own staff and the powerful Los Angeles Unified School District this week to allow three embattled charter schools to remain open. The reprieve represents a full turnabout for Magnolia Public Schools, which faced the shutdown of its campuses after L.A. Unified moved against them in October. The L.A. Unified board voted 6 to 0 to shutter the schools at the end of the current school year. But the charter group had the option of appealing to the board of the L.A. County Office of Education, and that body reached a different decision Tuesday, by a 4-1 vote, after three hours of testimony and discussion.


Billy Ball, The Progressive Pulse

As we reported at Policy Watch Tuesday, a new state reports shows the percentage of North Carolina charter students classified as low-income is on the decline, exacerbating a significant gap between traditional public schools and their charter counterparts. According to the draft state report, more than 50 percent of the students served by traditional public schools would be categorized as “economically disadvantaged.” But charters count less than 30 percent of their student body as low-income, a share that has dropped every year since 2012.


December 16, 2016

Leslie A. Maxwell, Education Week

The NAACP—the nation's oldest civil rights organization—is raising alarms about the growth of charter schools. The group wants a moratorium on new charters until a host of issues can be addressed… But African-American charter advocates are pushing back, calling the NAACP misguided and out of touch. They argue charters offer an important option to parents faced with failing traditional public schools. The debate over charters is only likely to intensify during the Trump administration. The president-elect's nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a strong supporter of school choice, including charters. Education Week

 sat down recently with NAACP President Cornell William Brooks to discuss charters, education inequality and the challenges ahead. Here's some of what he had to say.


Monica Disare, The Atlantic

When news broke that President-elect Donald Trump tapped the school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos as U.S. education secretary, New York City’s charter-school sector was relatively quiet. With the exception of the Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who tweeted she was “thrilled,” local charter-school leaders and advocates have mostly kept to themselves. That might seem surprising in a city where more than 100,000 students are educated in charter schools. But DeVos’s brand of school choice, which so far has focused on fighting for private-school vouchers and less charter oversight, is very different from the type than exists in New York City—and some local charter leaders appear wary of it. “I think a great many charter supporters, and indeed charter founders, are deeply troubled by the idea of vouchers,” said Steve Wilson, the CEO of the New York-based Ascend charter school network. “I would venture most charter-school founders are liberal Democrats who are committed to social justice and would be very troubled by free-market mechanisms.”

Maureen Magee, The San Diego Union-Tribune

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against e3 Civic High School amid allegations the charter school denied admission to a transgender student because of gender identity.

This is the second time in about a year that the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties has raised concerns about the charter’s culture when it comes to LGBT students. “It looks like they have a problem,” said David Loy, ACLU legal director. “We think they have an obligation to dispel the concern that they do have a pattern and practice of discrimination.”


December 9, 2016

John Fensterwald, EdSource

With the California Charter Schools Association’s goal of serving a million students – a nearly 75 percent increase – within six years, charter school growth is raising the stakes for effective monitoring. But there’s a sharp contrast in charter oversight capacity between California’s largest district and other districts. With nearly a quarter of the state’s 1,200 charter schools, Los Angeles Unified’s Charter Schools Division is a regulatory behemoth, with 50 employees and the district’s muscular Office of Inspector General at its disposal. Offices in most of the other 320-plus districts that have granted charter schools, however, usually consist of one undertrained, understaffed assistant superintendent frustrated by the complexity of the job. About 90 percent of the state’s districts have issued six or fewer charters; two-thirds have issued only one or two.


Arianna Prothero, Education Week

Before Betsy DeVos was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the U.S. Secretary of Education, she played a significant role in shaping Michigan's charter school sector as a long-time advocate and philanthropic-backer of school choice in the state. With the support of the DeVos family, Michigan was quick to jump on the charter school bandwagon in 1993—just two years after the nation's first charter law was enacted in Minnesota. In many ways, Michigan embodies a popular philosophy of the early days of the charter movement often described by advocates as "let a thousand flowers bloom." It's the idea that states should encourage the growth of lots of schools—as well as different kinds of schools and management structures—and let parents, through the choices they make, regulate the market and weed out the bad options. This attitude is echoed in the DeVos philosophy toward school choice.


Bruce D. Baker, Economic Policy Institute

This report highlights patterns of charter school expansion across several large and mid-size U.S. cities since 2000. In this report, the focus is the loss of enrollments and revenues to charter schools in host districts and the response of districts as seen through patterns of overhead expenditures. I begin by identifying those cities and local public school districts that have experienced the largest shifts of students from district-operated to charter schools, and select from among those cities illustrative examples of the effects of charter school expansion on host district finances and enrollments.


Cory Turner, NPR

President-elect Donald J. Trump said on the campaign trail that school choice is "the new civil rights issue of our time." But talk of school choice is, at best, confusing.


December 2, 2016

Alyson Klein and Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Betsy DeVos, a longtime school choice advocate and Republican mega-donor, to be his education secretary, he announced Wednesday. DeVos is best known in the school choice world as the chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, an advocacy and research organization that champions school vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. And just hours after her selection, DeVos sent a tweet making it clear that she adamantly opposes the Common Core State Standards, which Trump also has denounced. "Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate," said President-elect Trump in a statement announcing the pick, which is still subject to U.S. Senate confirmation. "Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families."


Austin Walsh, The Daily Journal

President-elect Donald Trump tapping Betsy DeVos as his preferred candidate to be the next education secretary raised eyebrows among some members of the local school community.  A few San Mateo County school officials claim they harbor severe reservations regarding Trump potentially appointing DeVos, who is seen by critics as a threat to the public school system. Those taking issue with the nomination point to her school choice advocacy and public criticism of Common Core standards as potential sources of consternation, though questions remain over the degree of influence her policies may have in local classrooms… Immediately following announcement of her candidacy, the California Charter Schools Association expressed their appreciation for the selection.


Maureen Magee, The San Diego Union-Tribune

A Northern California charter school has turned to the state’s highest court to review and potentially reverse an appellate court ruling that calls into question the legality of hundreds of satellite charter campuses. California’s charter school industry suffered a major blow in October when a state appellate court ruled that a charter school cannot operate mini-campuses outside its home district in its resident county. Growth in satellite charters has stirred turf wars and costly litigation locally and throughout San Diego County and state. Tens of thousands of California students attend satellite charter schools that operate in shopping malls, office parks and other unlikely campus venues within boundaries of school districts that did not authorize them. The appellate court decision puts at stake the education of students and millions of dollars in revenue generated by the charters for privately run organizations.


November 18, 2016

Diane Ravitch, The New York Review of Books
The New York Times recently published a series of articles about the dangers of privatizing public services, the first of which was called “When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers.” Over the years, the Times has published other exposés of privatized services, like hospitals, health care, prisons, ambulances, and preschools for children with disabilities. In some cities and states, even libraries and water have been privatized. No public service is immune from takeover by corporations that say they can provide comparable or better quality at a lower cost. The New York Times said that since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms “have increasingly taken over a wide array of civic and financial services that are central to American life.”


Eliza Shapiro, Politico
Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of New York City's largest and most controversial charter school network, is in the running to become president-elect Donald Trump's education secretary, a Trump aide confirmed Wednesday morning. The news puts Moskowitz in the company of other education reform leaders like former D.C. public schools chief Michelle Rhee and Center for Education Reform director Jeanne Allen, among others. A spokeswoman for Success declined to comment on whether Moskowitz was considering the position. The very fact that Moskowitz isn't shooting down the rumors could have political implications for the longtime Democrat, who has long had ambitions of running for mayor of New York City.


MaryAnn Spoto,

A group of parents in Red Bank wants the charter school there closed because, they argue, it has created the most segregated school district in New Jersey. The local advocacy group Fair Schools Red Bank and the Latino Coalition on Tuesday asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education to investigate the disparities between the borough's public schools and the Red Bank Charter School and take appropriate measures to end what they contend are unfair practices. In seeking a "unified, non-segregated" school district, the groups said the only way to achieve that in Red Bank is to close the charter school.


November 11, 2016

Emma Brown, The Washington Post

Though the presidential race cliffhanger was taking up most of the political oxygen Tuesday night, there were also important education policy developments in the states. Here’s how four high-profile ballot initiatives fared.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Teachers at four Los Angeles campuses overwhelmingly voted this week to oppose a program that could provide extra resources because the money would come from a pro-charter school organization. The school district said Friday that it has withdrawn grant applications for two of the schools. Faculties voted at Drew Middle School and Gompers Middle School in South Los Angeles and Pacoima Middle School and San Fernando High School in the northeast San Fernando Valley. The potential funding being rejected would come from from Great Public Schools Now, a nonprofit formed to replicate successful schools across low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods in which the neighborhood campuses have low test scores.


Arianna Prothero, Education Week

For five years in a row, the Hoosier Academies Virtual School had been failing. The school, where students take all of their classes online while at home, had been assigned an "F" grade from the state of Indiana every year it had been open except its first, when it had garnered a "C." That troubled track record had finally made the virtual school of nearly 4,000 students a candidate for state regulators' chopping block. In September, Hoosier Academies representatives appeared before the Indiana board of education to make their case for giving the school another chance. There, they revealed their strategy: the creation of a second virtual school—one to which they had siphoned students who were most behind. Those students, they argued, would get more support and specialized services.


November 4, 2016

Louis Freedberg, EdSource
After a quarter century of uninterrupted growth, aggressive efforts by charter school advocates to increase enrollments and to elect sympathetic school board members and legislators have triggered a backlash unlike anything that has occurred since the first charter school opened in California. Charter schools have drawn an increasing share of California’s approximately 6 million public school students. How this conflict plays out will have major ramifications for the kinds of schools those students will attend in future years. 

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Andre Perry, Hechinger Report
From the outside, Forest Hill High School is a picture of strength and prosperity. A far cry from the one-room schoolhouse that sat on the same spot in the 1850s, the contemporary academic and athletic facility covers more than 47 acres, and it seems to have all the physical attributes parents and teenagers could want. Inside, it’s a different story. Forest Hill High is failing students. The public school built in 1989 received an “F” rating on its most recent state evaluation, as did almost a third of the schools in the Jackson school district. No one understands this struggle better than Sharolyn Miller, chief financial officer for Jackson Public Schools. All summer, Miller struggled to fix a failing HVAC system the high school couldn’t afford — just as JPS found $600,000 for two new charter schools in the city.

Associated Press, Education Week

The battle over a charter school ballot question is heating up in the sprint to Election Day. On Tuesday, opponents of the question — which seeks to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts — released a statement from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders calling for the measure's defeat. The former Democratic presidential hopeful faulted the question for relying on money from New York backers. Sanders said it would drain resources from traditional public schools.



October 28, 2016

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
Some years back, when administrators at a group of Los Angeles charter schools ordered the entire instructional staff to cheat on state standardized tests, the charter division at the Los Angeles Unified School District was at first willing to forgive what had happened and move on. 

But last week, the L.A. Board of Education followed the recommendation of the charter division and voted to shut down three charters, ostensibly because their parent organization had been sluggish in providing requested paperwork that was important but not crucial to the schooling of students.


Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Carol Burris, Network for Public Education

The shine is off the charter school movement.  Freedom from regulation, thesine qua non

 of the charter world, has resulted too often in troubled schools, taxpayer fleecing and outright fraud.  Charters have become material for late-night comedians. That is never a good sign; just ask the proponents of the Common Core. The greatest blow to charter momentum, however, was delivered by the NAACP. When delegates’ voted for a moratorium on new charters, it unleashed the fury of the charterphiles. A piece on the pro-reform website Education Post was titled, “The NAACP Was Founded by White People and It Still Isn’t Looking Out for Black Families,” accusing the premier civil rights organization of being “morally anemic.” And yet, despite the vitriol and critique, the NAACP board of directors stood fast, supported its delegates, and issued a strong statement calling for charter reform.


Catherine Gewertz, Education Week

A new study of New York City's high school choice system shows that even high-achieving students from lower-performing middle schools often don't aim for the most competitive high schools, a finding that raises questions about how well the choice system, by itself, expands students' options. The report by the city's Independent Budget Office says the computer algorithm that matches the city's 80,000 applicants with their top choices works well. It's what happens before students make those choices that exerts a powerful influence on the outcomes.


October 21, 2016

Kyle Stokes, KPCC

Every few years, a charter school has to ask the school district overseeing it to renew its operating authority — like a renter asking to renew his lease on an apartment or a car. The Los Angeles Unified School Board has routinely approved these charter renewals. They’ve also regularly green-lighted “material revisions” to charters, allowing schools to add grade levels, alter enrollment targets or change their operational structures. Out of 202 such requests to L.A. Unified since 2011, the board has rejected only five. Tuesday night was different.



Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times

The small, densely populated city of Huntington Park is peppered with schools, about two dozen in 3 square miles. At least 10 are charters, and city leaders contend they’re bringing in unwanted traffic. Their solution is to try to ban new charter schools. Huntington Park City Council members voted 4 to 1 late Tuesday to extend a moratorium on new charter schools until September 2017.


October 14, 2016

In The Public Interest (ITPI)

Inequality in the United States, which began its most recent rise in the late 1970s, continues to surge in the post–Great Recession era.1 During similar eras—such as the New Deal—many of the public goods and services we value today were created to deliver widespread prosperity. But the way in which cities, school districts, states, and the federal government deliver things like education, social services, and water profoundly affects the quality and availability of these vital goods and services. In the last few decades, efforts to privatize public goods and services have helped fuel an increasingly unequal society. This report examines the ways in which the insertion of private interests into the provision of public goods and services hurts poor individuals and families, and people of color.


Abby Jackson, Business Insider

The Office of the Inspector General late last month released the results of a damning audit of the charter school industry, which found that charter schools' relationships with their management organizations pose a significant risk to the aim of the Department of Education. The OIG is a federal agency that works to prevent inefficient or illegal activities. The findings in the audit, specifically in regard to those relationships, echo the findings of a 2015 study that warned of a bubble similar to that of the subprime-mortgage crisis, one of the study's authors, Preston Green, told Business Insider.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Three Los Angeles charter schools could be shut down, largely because of their practice of bringing in teachers from Turkey, The Times has learned. The schools are part of a group of 10 campuses operated by locally based Magnolia Public Schools, which has relied heavily on using temporary work visas to import Turkish teachers.


October 7, 2016

John Fensterwald, EdSource

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Friday, pushed hard by the California Teachers Association, that would have required charter schools to comply with the state’s open meetings, public records and conflict of interest laws. Brown’s rejection of Assembly Bill 709, authored by Mike Gipson, D-Carson, was expected. Brown vetoed an almost identical bill two years ago, and, as a Senate Education Committee analysis noted, the bill “does not include any substantive changes that seek to address” the issues Brown raised then.


Arianna Prothero, Education Week

A federal audit warns that cozy relationships between charter schools and the organizations that run some of them could put federal funding at risk. Charter management organizations, or CMOs, are groups that run critical functions like finances, fundraising, communications, and curriculum for multiple charter schools. Not all charter schools are run by a CMO—the majority of charter schools in the country are actually single-campus operations. The level of independence between the school and the CMO varies on a case-by-case basis, and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, which conducted the audit, is basically saying that in some instances there is so little independence between the school and the management group that it could lead—and has led—to trouble.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

A group that was spawned from a controversial plan for rapid charter-school growth announced Wednesday that it would fund grants to incubate new campuses run by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Great Public Schools Now describes its mission as replicating successful schools in areas where Los Angeles students currently attend failing ones. The schools defined as failing invariably are operated by L.A. Unified. Nonetheless, L.A. Unified will be an early recipient of “great schools” grants — if the district can meet the specified conditions, said Myrna Castrejón, executive director of the locally based group. The grants, totaling as much as $3.75 million, would help jump-start up to five L.A. Unified projects.


September 30, 2016

Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet, The Washington Post

The charter school sector has grown over the last few decades amid a debate about its virtues and drawbacks — and even whether the publicly funded schools are actually public. Some charters do a great job, but even some advocates (though not all) are finally admitting that too many states allowed charters to open and operate without sufficient oversight.


Lauren Camera, U.S. News

In the lead up to the November elections, Massachusetts has become the epicenter of a renewed and newly divisive charter school debate as voters there prepare to decide whether or not to support a ballot question that would raise the cap on the number of charters allowed in the state.

Charter schools have always represented a flashpoint in the education space. But the looming decision for Massachusetts voters has driven a wedge between the state’s Democrats, and highlights a new era of sorts for the sector.


U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education announced today new grants totaling approximately $245 million under its Charter Schools Program (CSP), which funds the creation and expansion of public charter schools across the nation. Today’s grants are being awarded to state educational agencies and charter management organizations. The CSP supports the creation of high-quality public charter schools by providing start-up funds for new charter schools, strengthening accountability for charter school performance, sharing leading practices that enable school success, and ultimately, improving educational outcomes for students from high-need communities. The CSP has invested over $3 billion since the program’s inception in 1995 to states and charter school developers. In the past decade, CSP investments have enabled the launch of over 2,500 charter schools, serving approximately one million students.


September 23, 2016

Joy Resmovits, Sonali Kohli and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Outside a synagogue on Pico Boulevard, home to the independent charter City High School, signs beckoned families to join: “Now Enrolling! 9th and 10th grade.” But on Friday morning, the classrooms were mostly empty. Instead, the blue chairs on which students sat for the last month were arranged in a circle outside on the courtyard’s cracked asphalt. Parents, students and teachers passed around a palm-sized stuffed lion and mourned the loss of their school, just a month into its second year. “It’s like a funeral,” said Tiffany Bowen, whose son Sudan was in 10th grade. “You know how I feel? You know on the iPhone, there’s an emoji with a bandage on its head? That’s me.” The charter school’s board of directors voted Monday evening to close the high school, citing financial and facilities problems. L.A. School Report first reported the news Thursday.


Valeria Strauss, Washington Post

In October, the U.S. Education Department announced $157 million in charter school grants, including a recommended $71 million to Ohio, despite the fact that its charter sector has long been, at best, a mess. At the time, many in the education world wondered why the department had given any money to Ohio, given that a newspaper had done an analysis revealing that the state’s charter sector had misspent tax dollars more than any other, including school districts, court systems, public universities, hospitals and local governments. When asked, federal officials admitted that they hadn’t quite realized just how scandal-ridden Ohio’s charter sector was, and decided that it would investigate. In June, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) asked the Education Department to review its grant-making process and said that if the grant was to be given, tough restrictions should be put in place, including an independent monitor.


George Joseph, The Atlantic

Shanice Givens’s son, Cyrus, was 6 years old when administrators at his charter school, Success Academy in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, put him on a list of students they wanted to push out. “They’d suspend him for not having on shoes, for not having his shirt tucked, for going to the bathroom,” says Givens. “So he lost courage and a will to want to do better.” According to Givens, Cyrus was suspended 30 times that school year. Success Academy spokesperson Ann Powell says the kindergartner was suspended only seven times. Either way, that’s a lot of suspensions for a 6 year old. Today, city leaders are increasingly pushing to reform school-discipline practices to minimize suspensions for students like Cyrus, heeding calls from activists and researchers who say excessive discipline can fuel rises in student dropout rates and push young people into the criminal-justice system.


September 16, 2016

Valeria Strauss, Washington Post Answer Sheet

Within the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, the K-12 education law that replaced No Child Left Behind, is a provision that provides for the use of federal funds by states and school districts for something known as “Pay for Success.”  The Obama administration has actually been funding Pay for Success programs in education and other areas for years, and Congress likes the concept. It is going to become a big thing in public education over the next few years. So what is it exactly? According to the Corporation for National & Community Service: Pay for Success (PFS) has emerged as a new approach for government to partner with the private sector to fund proven community-based solutions. PFS is an innovative contracting and financing model that leverages philanthropic and private dollars to fund services up front, with the government, or other entity, paying after they generate results. This strategy has gained strong bi-partisan support in Congress, as a strategy for increasing return on taxpayer dollars while improving the quality of services provided in our communities. If it sounds as if it’s a way for the private sector to make money off investments in public education, that’s because it is. Supporters say it is a great way to get private entities to invest in schools that need resources. Critics say it is more likely to help the private entities earn a lot of money than do much for children.


Theresa Harrington, EdSource

Three California schools are among 10 nationwide that were awarded $10 million each on Wednesday to “reimagine high school,” as part of a year-long contest backed by an organization headed by Laurene Powell Jobs. All three schools focus heavily on tailoring instruction to individual students, yet each have different goals and serve students in different parts of the state. The Summit Public Schools system plans to open a new campus in Oakland to help students explore career options. Vista High in San Diego County is challenging students to co-create curriculum with their teachers based on United Nations Sustainable Development goals. And a proposal to create a new school called Rise High in Los Angeles won for the services it plans to provide to disenfranchised students, including homeless and foster youth. The proposals were chosen from about 700 entries in the XQ Super School Project contest.


Joel Warner, Capital and Main

Aimee Roylance was thrilled when her son was accepted into Livermore Valley Charter School in 2010. The traditional public schools in their part of the Bay Area were cash-strapped and struggling, and the K-8 charter school, with a waiting list 300 kids long, was known to be an excellent alternative. Sure enough, her son thrived at Livermore Valley, thanks to its diverse programming and strong leadership of its well-liked principal. Eventually, Roylance enrolled her younger two children at Livermore Valley, too.“ The experience overall was very positive,” she says. But she didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. She first heard inklings of financial and management troubles at the school early this year. Curious, she used her real estate background to look up the tax status of the land parcels on which the school sat – and found the charter was months behind in payments. Soon, Roylance and other parents were packing board meetings of the Tri-Valley Learning Corporation, the nonprofit that operates the school, demanding answers that didn’t come. Board members, Roylance claims, refused to address their tax troubles, release budget information or explain how they were using public funds. The board limited public comment at its hearings, changed meeting locations and released only snippets of pertinent financial documents, says Roylance.


September 9, 2016

David Scharfenberg, The Boston Globe

While the partisans in Massachusetts’ bitter charter debate are sinking millions of dollars into a high-profile ballot fight over whether to build more of the schools, they’re also spending sizable sums on bids to shape the state Legislature. Democrats for Education Reform, which favors charter schools, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which opposes them, have set aside $200,000 each to influence a handful of this week’s Democratic primary races — sizable sums in often low-dollar contests.


Dana Bartholomew, Los Angeles Daily News

A powerful earthquake sends tremors rippling across the San Fernando Valley, toppling buildings, sparking fires and trapping thousands of residents among the rubble. But instead of police and firefighters picking through sharp-edged debris, an army of robots is dispatched to search and rescue. At least that was the exercise last week at the first Los Angeles magnet school for robotics.


September 2, 2016

Emma Brown, The Washington Post

The National Labor Relations Board decided in two separate cases last week that — as far as federal labor law is concerned — charter schools are not public schools but private corporations. The decisions apply only to the specific disputes from which they arose, involving unionization efforts at charter schools in New York and in Pennsylvania. But they plunge the labor board into a long-running debate over the nature of charter schools: publicly funded, privately run institutions that enroll about 3 million students nationwide.


Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet

Megan E. Tompkins-Stange is an assistant professor of public policy at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan who has written a highly revealing book about the power and influence of four major foundations in education-reform policy in recent years. She researched “Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence” over several years, in which she was given access to officials in four foundations — Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli and Edythe Broad, Ford, and W.K. Kellogg—  as well as permission to quote people without attribution. It would, of course, be better to know exactly who said what, but Tompkins-Stange is able nonetheless to give enough context so that the power of the words she recorded from 60 interviews contributes to the overall narrative. “Policy Patrons” looks at the effect of the unprecedented philanthropic engagement in public education reform during the Obama administration and raises questions about whether democracy is usurped when private individuals use their fortunes to bend public policy to their own priorities.


Michael Janofsky, EdSource

Fresh off a victory in a lawsuit that would have changed state employment rules for teachers, the California Teachers Association is launching a statewide radio campaign calling for more “accountability and transparency” of California charter schools. The campaign, which started Wednesday, is aimed at calling attention to “a small group of billionaires” the union says support charter schools to the detriment of traditional public schools.


Sean Cavanagh, EdWeek Market Brief

Federal officials have recently unveiled two new grant programs to support the design of “pay for success” models that would allow investors to pour money into  preschool and career-and-technical education, and secure financial returns if there are positive results.

August 26, 2016

William J. Mathis, National Education Policy Center

A fundamental premise of charter schools is that deregulation will free teachers, principals and schools to excel. Regulation or accountability in the conventional sense can cause gridlock and inefficiencies, so charter schools were designed to free up schools for innovation. Instead of conventional regulatory accountability, charters would be accountable through competition and the market model. While there is certainly merit to these arguments—that bureaucratic regulation can be nonsensical and burdensome, and that deregulation can allow beneficial innovation—the picture is not so black-and-white. Regulations arise because taxpayers are understandably wary of abusive and incompetent uses of public funds, particularly in areas such as public schooling that play such a central role in our democracy. In a brief released today, Regulating Charter Schools, 

William Mathis examines these tensions and the need for balance. “There is no perfect amount of regulation or deregulation, but we need to be regularly reassessing the situation and responding to clear problems,” explains Dr. Mathis.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

The well-regarded El Camino Real Charter High School faces a possible shutdown following an investigation by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Issues cited by the school system in a letter to the school this week include possible inappropriate spending, poor accounting and oversight, and violations of public-meeting rules.


Anna M. Phillips, Los Angeles Times

First a delivery truck plastered with pictures of smiling children started making the rounds of the northeast San Fernando Valley last spring. Then came a billboard on Van Nuys Boulevard for the same 90-year-old product: a Los Angeles public school. “I saw the ad. Are you enrolling new students?” parents asked Richard Ramos, a principal in his third year at Haddon Avenue STEAM Academy in Pacoima. His answer was an enthusiastic yes. As enrollment in traditional public schools around the city has declined and charter schools have mushroomed, Ramos and other principals are having to compete for students or risk school closure. To do this, they are turning to marketing tactics long employed by charter schools: handing out glossy fliers and creating Facebook pages to promote their after-school activities. The time and attention they are pouring into recruitment is fundamentally changing the nature of their jobs.

August 19, 2016

Sonali Kohli, Anna M. Phillips and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

New school year, new survival strategy. Faced with declining enrollment and a growing challenge from independent charter schools, the Los Angeles Unified School District opened the academic year Tuesday highlighting one balm for its problems: 16 new magnet schools. The nation’s second-largest school system hopes to replicate its established, successful magnets — which have strong test scores, diverse student bodies and waiting lists.


Kristina Rizga, Mother Jones

A few weeks ago, the Movement for Black Lives, the network that also includes Black Lives Matter organizers, released its first-ever policy agenda. Among the organization's six demands and dozens of policy recommendations was a bold education-related stance: a moratorium on both charter schools and public school closures. Charters, the agenda argues, represent a shift of public funds and control over to private entities. Along with "an end to the privatization of education," the Movement for Black Lives organizers are demanding increased investments in traditional community schools and the health and social services they provide.


Robert Shireman, The Century Foundation

By denying the nonprofit status of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education (CEHE), the U.S. Department of Education today took a big step forward in ensuring that colleges claiming to be nonprofit are actually behaving that way, dedicating their resources to education rather than operating as moneymaking enterprises for college trustees and executives.

August 12, 2016

Julian Vasquez Heilig, California State University, Sacramento

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Legislature – to the objection of many in the delegation that represented New Orleans – took control of nearly all of New Orleans’ public schools. The legislature targeted New Orleans – a predominately Black jurisdiction – for public school takeover and vested power and control of the lion’s share of the city’s public schools in the Recovery School District (RSD). The RSD was to be a statewide special school district with governance vested in non-elected officials. On these facts alone, one should question the argument that school choice in New Orleans was designed to enhance civil rights.


The Times Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

And you thought applying to college could be tough. Take a look at the online application form for 2016-17 at Roseland Accelerated Middle School, a charter school in Santa Rosa. It’s called a registration form, but the intimidating set of documents with a couple dozen pages must be completed before a student is accepted, not after, according to the website.


Jamie Martines, The Hechinger Report

Virtual charter schools can give students who are falling behind in traditional schools a chance to find success in an alternative learning environment. But can virtual charter schools fully replace the traditional face-to-face school experience?

August 5, 2016

Kyle Stokes, KPCC

California law lays out a straightforward admissions process for charter schools: charters, like all public schools, essentially must admit any student who wants to enroll so long as there’s space. But "at least” 253 of the state’s 1,200 charter schools ask students and their families to jump through extra hoops before letting them in, according to a report the ACLU and Public Advocates released Monday.


Steven Singer, Common Dreams

In the education market, charter schools are often sold as a way to help black and brown children. But The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) isn’t buying it. In fact, the organization is calling for a halt on any new charter schools across the nation. Delegates from across the country passed a resolution at the NAACP’s national convention in Cincinnati last week calling for a moratorium on new charters schools. Approval of the new resolution will not be official until the national board meeting later this year.


Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet

Why would wealthy charter school supporters be spending big bucks to defeat the chief justice of the Washington state Supreme Court? In September, the court ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional because they are governed by appointed — rather than elected — boards and therefore are not “common schools” eligible for state education funds. The chief justice, Barbara Madsen, wrote that “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools.” Now, charter supporters, including some who don’t even live in Washington, are backing a candidate who is trying to oust her.


Erin Einhorn, The Atlantic

With some of the nation’s most devastated schools, Detroit is in desperate need of new ideas, new energy, and lots of money. But when local advocates approach organizations that have invested millions of dollars—and countless hours of problem-solving—into jumpstarting schools in cities like Washington, Memphis, Indianapolis, and New Orleans, the answer often comes back the same: No. Not Detroit. Not now.

July 29, 2016

Terrenda White, National Education Policy Center
A report published by the Progressive Policy Institute calls for aggressively closing more public schools and expanding charter schools and charter networks. It highlights reforms adopted by Denver Public Schools, notably a “portfolio model” of school governance, and argues that these reforms positively impacted student test scores. However, causality cannot be determined, and the report did not attempt to isolate the effect of a multitude of reforms—including charters, performance pay, and a new performance framework—from larger complex forces shaping student demographics in the city. Written in a reportorial voice, the only data presented are in the form of simple charts. The lack of conventional statistical analyses thwarts the reader’s understanding. The report also characterizes the reform’s adoption as a “political success” born of a healthily contentious electoral process. In doing so, it downplays the role of outside forces and moneyed groups that influenced the form of reforms, and it disregards missed opportunities for meaningful engagement with community stakeholders. Finally, while the report acknowledges the district’s failure to close achievement gaps and admits limitations with the evaluation system, it never explains how a successful reform could generate a widening gap in performance between student groups by race and class. 

Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times
For years, parents in the nation’s second largest school district have faced disarray when trying to find the best place for their kids to learn. There are about 10 types of public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, many with their own admissions processes and schedules. To address that problem, the school district has discussed creating a “unified enrollment system,” a one-stop-shopping experience for choosing between district schools. Initially, the plan only included district schools and not independent charters — the publicly funded but privately run alternatives that are often accused of draining money and enrollment from L.A. Unified. But as the district tries — in the words of its superintendent Michelle King — to “change the narrative” about the rivalry, that might change.

Mike Szymanski, LA School Report
LA Unified School Board President Steve Zimmer offered a rousing speech at Saturday’s “Promising Practices” forum that was praised by charter leaders because of his inclusiveness. “We understand that a narrative that blames charter schools for all that is wrong in public education may serve short-term organizing goals but is counterproductive and doesn’t help every child,” Zimmer said. “Equally, a narrative that perpetuates the notion that LAUSD schools are failures may increase the short-term goal of increasing charter schools and reinforces deficit mindsets. It’s an immoral narrative. Both of these narratives are not factual, both goals have the effect of dividing us artificially and not really serving the needs of kids and their families and why we got into this work.”


July 22, 2016

Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet
How do some charter schools affect the traditional school districts in which they are located? Disastrously in some cases, as a new study about Michigan schools shows. The study, “Which Districts Get Into Financial Trouble and Why: Michigan’s Story,” finds that among Michigan districts, “80 percent of the explained variation in district fiscal stress is due to changes in districts’ state funding, to enrollment changes including those associated with school choice policies, and to the enrollment of high-cost special education students.” A working paper was released last November and the study will be published in the fall edition of the Journal of Education Finance. In the following post, Jennifer Berkshire, author of the EduShyster website, interviews the lead author of the study, David Arsen, a professor in the Department of Educational Administration College of Education at Michigan State University about the research and its implications for charter school expansion in other places. He notes in the interview that “overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent.”

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
The local teachers union has made rare common cause with a charter school: They are pressing to have the Los Angeles school district — not the charter — pay for costly retiree benefits that are due to teachers who worked at the charter.

Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet
Samuel E. Abrams is the director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He has written a new book, “Education and the Commercial Mindset,” that details how and why market forces have come to rise in public education and become important in corporate school reform.



July 15, 2016

Mark Berends, University of Notre Dame, AERA Knowledge Forum

School choice embraces a variety of options, including magnet schools, charter public schools, neighborhood public schools, vouchers or tuition tax credits, homeschooling, inter- and intra-district choice, and supplemental educational services (Berends 2014, 2015). These options allow families to choose the school their children attend. Over the past two decades, charter schools―schools that are publicly funded but run under a charter by parents, educators, community groups, universities, or private organizations to encourage school autonomy and innovation—have grown significantly.


Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet

In an unexpected move, Democrats have revised the K-12 education section of their party’s 2016 platform in important ways, backing the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests, qualifying support for charter schools, and opposing using test scores for high-stakes purposes to evaluate teachers and students. Some of the changes are being welcomed by public school advocates who have been fighting corporate school reform, which includes standardized test-based accountability systems and the expansion of charter schools. Many of these activists have been worried that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, would back corporate reform, just as the Obama administration has. While it isn’t clear exactly what she will do if she becomes president — as platform language does not necessarily translate into policy — supporters of those reforms are furious at the changes, highlighting a rift in the party over how to improve K-12 education.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

The state attorney general’s office has reached an $8.5-million settlement with an online charter school it had accused of false advertising, misleading parents and inadequate instruction. The settlement, announced late Friday, closes the state’s civil investigation of the 13 branches of California Virtual Academy, but it does not end the challenges for the schools and Virginia-based K12 Inc., which the state had accused of controlling the charters for the company’s benefit.



July 8, 2016

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

The latest reformers intent on improving Los Angeles schools are confident that they have it right. The trick, they say, is not to get shoehorned by theories or politics. Instead, simply find a good school and make another one just like it. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Until 160,000 Los Angeles students in bad schools get into excellent ones. 


Laura Krantz, The Boston Globe

Dozens of public school districts around the state have signed contracts to enroll foreign students in their high schools, attracted by the prospect of thousands of dollars in tuition revenue and a chance to diversify their student bodies. Recruiting firms, tapping the growing hunger — primarily in China — for an American education, connect students with the schools for a handsome fee.


George Joseph, The Nation

Alisa Currimjee, a second-year Teach for India fellow, is struggling in the classroom today. She points down the hall toward her pupils and grimaces: “They haven’t been very well-behaved.” As she enters the classroom, I wait outside with Hemangi Joshi, a teacher-training expert. We cringe as Currimjee yells until her voice is hoarse, shouting at a classroom of 34 boys sitting two to a desk, with barely any room to move. It’s hot, and so it’s hard to hear Currimjee over the fans. “What does ‘analyze’ mean?” she demands, as kids in the back rows doze off right in front of us. She looks frustrated, calling on student after student, until one of them recites the definition he has scribbled in his notebook. Joshi whispers to me, “She is the only one talking, explaining… and she’s just sticking to the textbook. This is not much different from rote memorization.”


Donald Cohen, TPM

The post-WWII era was a tough time for conservative economists, academics, intellectuals, and business leaders. Social Security, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Securities and Exchange Act, and other New Deal programs represented a dangerous expansion of government’s role in the economy and society – nothing short of a frontal assault on freedom and the beginnings of socialism in the U.S. Today, after 50 years of attack on government, privatization is a standard conservative response to tight public budgets, a key pillar of attacks on government, and a lucrative market opportunity for domestic and global corporations. Large corporations operate virtually every type of public service including prisons, welfare systems, infrastructure, water and sewer, trash, and schools. 



July 1, 2016

Howard Blume, Maloy Moore and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times
About $7 billion a year in school funding will be at stake this fall when voters decide whether to extend Proposition 30, a tax on high-income Californians. Those in favor of the tax went on the offensive Tuesday, shining a spotlight on people who gave undisclosed money to fight the levy.
  Ryan Masters, Santa Cruz Sentinel
As the dust settles on the primaries, Anna Caballero’s 20-point lead over Karina Cervantez Alejo in the race for the 30th Assembly District stands out as one of the few unexpected outcomes of the June 7 vote.  Despite receiving a host of key early endorsements, including a nod from the California Democratic Party, Cervantez Alejo only received 25 percent of the vote in comparison to Caballero’s 45 percent.  Although it is difficult to discern the precise reasons for this outcome, it is clear the race was affected to some degree by a committee called Parent Teacher Alliance, sponsored by California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee, which poured $948,432 into Caballero’s campaign in the months leading up to the election.
  Arianna Prothero, Education Week
The Walton Family Foundation—one of the most influential backers of charter schools—has announced plans to spend $250 million to help charter schools buy or renovate school buildings.

June 24, 2016

Howard Blume and Zahira Torres, Los Angeles Times
Two organizations set up to work within the traditional public school system are moving away from their original mission — and from the Los Angeles Unified School District — in the name of better helping students. The governing boards of the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education and the group LA’s Promise have voted to merge to create a new organization whose plans include setting up charter schools. Martin Levine, Nonprofit Quarterly
This week, we learned more about an ambitious and highly controversial effort to transform Los Angeles’s public school system that will test the limits of its public-private partnership. Last August, we first learned that several major foundations, including the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Keck Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, were developing a $450 million plan with a goal “to enroll half of all Los Angeles students in charter schools over the next eight years, perhaps beginning with the enrollment of half of all students currently at schools with low test scores.” Even for a district that already has 16 percent of its students in charters, this would be a dramatic change.
  Jack Schneider, The Atlantic
Everything in American education is broken. Or so say the policy elites, from the online learning pioneer Sal Khan to the journalist-turned-reformer Campbell Brown. As leaders of the XQ project succinctly put it, we need to “scrap the blueprint and revolutionize this dangerously broken system.”

June 17, 2016

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Organizers of a controversial educational reform effort that initially sought a massive expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles now say they will support any effective programs – including traditional public schools – to bring high-quality options to the 160,000 students they identify as attending failing public schools.

Emma Brown, The Washington Post

Full-time virtual charter schools have become increasingly popular during the past decade, now enrolling 180,000 students nationwide, students who learn by logging on to laptops from home instead of going to brick-and-mortar schoolhouses. But these schools’ growing enrollment has been accompanied by intense scrutiny: Journalists, activists and scholars have reported on virtual schools’ poor performance and raised questions about whether the schools are designed to effectively teach kids — or to effectively make a profit.

Jessica Calefati, The Mercury News

Online charter schools would be prohibited from hiring for-profit firms to provide instructional services under a new bill that the author says is a direct response to this newspaper's investigation of the company behind a profitable but low-performing network of "virtual" academies.


June 10, 2016

John Rogers, UCLA; Marco Amador, Capital and Main

Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times

By the time parents find out that their kids’ school will share a campus with a charter school, the decision to put it there has usually already been made.

Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week

California's labor-relations board for public employees issued a mixed ruling on whether a major California charter management organization illegally tried to quash a unionization drive at its schools.


June 3, 2016

Marco Amador, Capital and Main

With Los Angeles at the forefront of the national debate over public education, Capital & Main will examine the potential impacts of large-scale charter school expansion in the country’s second-largest district. “Failing the Test: Charter Schools, Privatization and the Future of Public Education in Los Angeles and California” will explore the uneven results of California’s charter school growth, and the potential impacts of further expansion on public education.

This weeklong series is based on extensive interviews with education experts, community advocates, parents, teachers and elected officials on both sides of the escalating controversy over charter schools. “Failing the Test” documents how charter advocates are aggressively pushing for dramatic growth despite evidence that these schools do not improve overall student performance. The series reports on how privately operated charter schools leave some kids behind, even as they enjoy taxpayer support and broad exemptions from the laws that govern traditional public schools.


Zahira Torres, Los Angeles Times

A panel of state lawmakers on Wednesday voted to audit Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, a move that raises the stakes in a yearlong battle over unionizing teachers at the biggest charter organization in Los Angeles. Since launching a unionization effort last year, United Teachers Los Angeles and a group of Alliance educators have filed several complaints accusing the charter group of violating state laws that allow educators to organize without fear of reprisal.  


Jessica Calefati, The Mercury News

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling for a state audit of a profitable but low-performing network of online charter schools following this newspaper's investigation of K12 Inc., the Virginia company at the heart of the operation.


May 27, 2016

Aaron Mendelson, KPCC
Groups that support the expansion of charter schools in California are spending big this year to support the campaigns of sympathetic Democrats vying for open seats in the state Legislature. One charter group alone has spent more than $1 million in the Southern California contest to replace Assemblyman Mike Gatto.


Liana Heitin, Education Week
In a letter posted today on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's website, chief executive officer Sue Desmond-Hellman acknowledged that the group had made some miscalculations regarding implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Kyle Stokes, KPCC
If a study commissioned by Los Angeles' teachers union is right — that charter schools cost the L.A. Unified School District more than $591 million annually— it's a big deal.

May 20, 2016

Morgan Springer, NPR

The Traverse City Area Public Schools in northern Michigan have a saying: "Great Community, Great Schools." The Washington Post agrees, ranking Traverse City high schools some of the most challenging

 in the country. But the district of about 9,500 is losing enough students — 12 percent in the last 10 years — that last fall superintendent Paul Soma recommended closing three elementary schools. Then came a surprise. At a school board meeting in March, when members had just voted to close two of the schools, Soma made an announcement about the third. "We are in the receipt of new information regarding a donor offering over $800,000 to keep Old Mission open."


Jan Resseger, National Education Policy Center

Ohio’s Senate Bill 298, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni’s proposed law to ensure that the state is paying online charter schools for real students, not merely phantom students, will have a fourth hearing this week. Ohio pays on-line charter schools nearly $7,000 per pupil. According to Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy, e-schools are draining approximately $250 million in public dollars to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), the Ohio Virtual Academy—a K12 Inc. affiliate, and other e-schools.

Web Desk, Geo TV

A large number of teachers from different parts of the province had gathered for a sit-in in Lahore outside the Punjab Assembly after talks with the provincial government remained unsuccessful on Saturday.


May 13, 2016

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

A teachers union-funded report on charter schools concludes that these largely nonunion campuses are costing traditional schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District millions of dollars in tax money. The report, which is certain to be viewed with skepticism by charter supporters, focused on direct and indirect costs related to enrollment, oversight, services to disabled students and other activities on which the district spends money.


Kyle Stokes, KPCC

Board members have already asked L.A. Unified leaders numerous times to increase the number of seats available in the district's popular programs — to name a few: magnet and pilot schools, dual language immersion programs and International Baccalaureate tracks — in hopes of reversing a decade-long decline in enrollment. But a new resolution

 proposed by board members Ref Rodriguez and Mónica García adds an emphasis on seeking outside partnerships. If passed during Tuesday's board meeting, the resolution directs Superintendent Michelle King to produce a strategy for engaging funders and organizations that might help scaling up successful academic offerings.


Larry Cuban, National Education Policy Center

I saw this cartoon and burst out laughing. The cartoonist takes airline frequent flier practices that sort out passengers for best-to-worst seating and applied it to school busing.  The New Yorker 

cartoonist’s pen gives satisfaction to critics of business-influenced school reform, by poking at the unrelenting “privatization” of public schooling over the past three decades.


May 6, 2016

Kyle Stokes, KPCC

Martin Wong and Wendy Lau were frustrated. They'd gotten a letter from the Los Angeles Unified School District saying their daughter's school, Castelar Street Elementary in Chinatown, might have to turn over several classrooms to a charter school. Most frustrating about the letter, dated February 27, was that Wong and Lau could do little to stop Metro Charter School from "co-locating" on the district's property — a California law known as Prop 39 says school districts must open up their campuses to charter schools searching for a building.


Sarah Tully, Education Week

The Walton Family Foundation has decided to pull its funding in support of charter schools in seven cities as it shifts to a new focus and investments in other communities.  


Valerie Strauss, Joanne Barkan; Answer Sheet

Here is a case study about how influential some ultra-wealthy philanthropists in the United States have become in market-based school reform. It’s about what happened in Washington state when some billionaires decided they had to have charter schools in the state — something voters had rejected three times.


April 29, 2016

Walt Gardner, Education Week

The debate over parental choice invariably focuses on charter schools. I understand their appeal.  But what about magnet schools ("L.A. Unified magnets accepted less than half of applicants this year," Los Angeles Times, Apr. 25)?  Long before charter schools became a widespread option, they were the only publicly funded alternative. I believe they still offer the best choice. Let's see why.  

Andre Perry, The Hechinger Report

Communities shouldn’t accept the flagrantly negative tradeoffs that come with school reform. Reform can only be sustained by the very communities that use them. That’s the bottom line for New Orleanians involved in the current effort to bring charter schools in the Recovery School District back into the New Orleans Public School District. The public has the rights to good schools and good governance. And if it isn’t the bottom line and for the rest of the country, it should be.


April 22, 2016

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

A Woodland Hills charter school recently made an unusual offer to its veteran teachers: We'll give you $30,000 if you return to the Los Angeles Unified School District before you retire. It wasn't the teachers that El Camino Real Charter High School wanted to get rid of. It was the cost of their retirement benefits.


Sarah Tully, Education Week

The parent-trigger movement that allows parents to petition to take over failing schools is hitting obstacles in California because the system to determine if schools are indeed failing is in transition. In 2010, California was the first state to pass a so-called parent-trigger law, which allows parents to overhaul schools that are determined as failing by turning them into charters, removing the administration, or taking other measures. It's also the only state, out of six that have such laws, to successfully execute a campaign.


Gary Miron and Charisse Gulosino, National Education Policy Center

The fourth edition of the National Education Policy Center’s annual report on online and blended learning schools provides a detailed overview and inventory of full-time virtual and blended learning schools, also called hybrid schools. Little rigorous research has examined the inner workings of these schools, but evidence indicates that students differ from those in traditional public schools, and that school outcomes are consistently below traditional public schools. Nevertheless, enrollment growth has continued, assisted by vigorous advertising campaigns, corporate lobbying, and favorable legislation.


April 15, 2016

Jeremy Mohler, Capital and Main
April 1 was a historic day for public education in the U.S. Joined by diverse community groups and other workers, Chicago’s public school teachers took to the streets demanding more from city and state leaders. More autonomy in the classroom. More funding for education. More support for students, school nurses and librarians. Even higher wages for fast-food workers across the city. But they were also demanding less. Less unregulated charter schools. Less “high stakes” standardized testing. In short, less privatization.


Kyle Stokes, KPCC
Charter school advocates and Los Angeles Unified School District leaders are again toe-to-toe, this time over a bill in the state legislature that would limit the school board's ability to use the district's internal investigator to oversee charter schools.


April 8, 2016

Kyle Stokes, KPCC

Attention, families overwhelmed by the dizzying process of choosing a school in Los Angeles: school district officials say they feel your pain — and they're beginning an effort to make it easier to enroll a child in a school other than the one dictated by their home address. L.A. Unified leaders are in the early stages of creating a unified enrollment system that would create a single application with a single deadline for many of the district's dozen or so disparate school choice programs. It's one way district officials are trying to break the steady trend of enrollment decline in L.A. Unified — which has lost 200,000 students since 2002 — and offer clearer alternatives to the charter schools to which many of these students have flocked.


Michael Janofsky, EdSource

In the late 1990s, Los Angeles Unified became the first and only school district in California to have an Office of the Inspector General, with responsibilities to oversee the vast finances and operations of the state’s largest school district. Now, a bill gathering support in the Assembly, AB 2806, would place new limits on the office’s autonomy, making it answerable to the seven-member school board with restrictions on how much time and money the office could spend on its investigations of charter schools.


Arianna Prothero, Education Week

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has said he will neither sign nor veto a bill reinstating charter schools, allowing the measure to become law on Sunday without his signature. The legislature passed a bill last month to resurrect the state's fledgling charter school sector six months after the Washington Supreme Court ruled the original law, passed by voter referendum in 2012, was unconstitutional. It was the first time a state's high court has ruled wholesale against a charter law.

April 1, 2016

Emma Brown, The Washington Post

Students in the nation’s private schools are disproportionately-and in some states overwhelmingly-white. While that’s not entirely surprising, a new analysis from the Southern Education Foundation quantifies the continued segregation of white students in private schools, particularly in the South, where private-school enrollment jumped in the 1950s and 1960s as white families sought to avoid attending integrated public schools.


Joy Resmovits, Los Angeles Times

Just several years after its glitzy launch, StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based education group started by former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, is merging with another education advocacy organization, 50Can.


Kali Holloway, Alternet

Perhaps guided by the old adage that you have to spend money to make money, the champions of education “reform” have poured billions into the effort to privatize and profit from America’s schools. Those funds are used on multiple fronts: launching charter schools, underwriting the political campaigns of politicians, and of course, investing in media to propagate the free-market privatization vision. Among the most visible properties in this effort is the Seventy Four, the well-funded, power broker-backed education news website run by former journalist-turned-school privatization activist Campbell Brown.

March 24, 2016

Rachael Myrow, KQED; Guests: Alex Caputo-Pearl, United Teachers Los Angeles; Antwan Wilson, Oakland Unified School District; Jed Wallace, California Charter Schools Association; John Fensterwald, EdSource

Charter school advocates are seeking to double the number of students attending charter schools in California by 2022. One advocacy group is suing state school districts - including Oakland Unified - to be able to use more of their classrooms, even though the districts says they're strapped for space. In this hour of Forum we'll get the latest on the fight over charter schools in California.


Michael Janofsky, EdSource

It landed like a bombshell last summer, a leaked plan to double the number of charter schools in Los Angeles Unified and students attending them over the next eight years. It talked of raising half a billion dollars from foundations and high-wealth donors to get it done, all with the idea of improving the quality of education for low-income students.


Carol Burris, The Answer Sheet

One of the features of the charter school movement that may be unknown to many is what is called “co-location,” when a charter is permitted to open up in a traditional school building to share space with a functioning school. The schools are run independently but resourced differently. In this post, Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education, explains how co-locations work and problems they can create. She was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year.

March 18, 2016

Anya Kamenetz, NPR

K-12 education hasn't exactly been front and center in this presidential election, but Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders made some news on the topic this week. Here's how he responded to a question about charter schools at a CNN televised Town Hall meeting: "I believe in public education and I believe in public charter schools. I do not believe in privately controlled charter schools." Here's the contradiction: Charter schools are all public. And, each has some element of private control.


Jennifer C. LaFleur, Education Policy Analysis Archives

This project contributes to the body of research examining the implications of the geographic location of charter schools for student access, especially in high-poverty communities. Using geographic information systems (GIS) software, this paper uses data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey to identify the socioeconomic characteristics of the census tracts in which Chicago’s charter schools tend to locate. Echoing the findings of other researchers who have examined charter school locational patterns, the present analyses found evidence of a “ceiling effect” by which many charter schools appear to locate in Chicago’s higher-needs census tracts, broadly cast, but avoid locating directly within those that are highest-need. The findings suggest that because Chicago’s charter schools face per-pupil expenditures that are often up to 20% less than those of traditional public schools, they may strategically leverage location to help shape student enrollment. By frequently locating near, but not directly within highest-need communities, charter schools may find it easier to attract a quorum of relatively higher achieving students who are less expensive to educate, therefore increasing their chances of meeting academic benchmarks and retaining their charters. By extending the findings of other researchers to the context of Chicago—where charters represent an ever-increasing share of the public school market—the present analyses may inform future revisions to the policies governing the authorization of charter schools in Chicago, with the goal of increasing access for highest-need students.

March 11, 2016

Motoko Rich, New York Times

The 70 teachers who showed up to a school board meeting here recently in matching green and black T-shirts paraded in a circle, chanting, “Charter schools are not public schools!” and accusing the superintendent of doing the bidding of “a corporate oligarchy.”


Jeff Bryant, Campaign for America’s Future

The rapid expansion of the charter school industry across the country continues to be dogged by high-profile scandalslurid news reports, and studies showing widespread corruption and fraud.

Benjamin Herold, Education Week

Developing new software for K-12 schools. Investing in hot ed-tech startups. Donating tens of millions of dollars to schools experimenting with fresh approaches to customizing the classroom experience. All are part of a new, multi-pronged effort by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, to use their massive fortune to reshape public education with technology.

March 4, 2016

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Recently hired school L.A. schools Supt. Michelle King on Tuesday called for traditional public schools and charters—groups often at odds—to work together, pledging to set up a conference where they could share ideas.


Arianna Prothero, Education Week

A bill to restore Washington state's charter school law failed to get out of a legislative committee Thursday, putting supporters of the state's fledging charter movement on edge. House Education Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, pulled the bill from the voting list because she was waiting on a report from a work group on whether the measure passes constitutional muster, according to the Associated Press.


Sean Cavanagh, EdWeek Market Brief

K12 Inc., the major for-profit provider of online education, is making a big expansion where it says there is strong demand from schools–and employers: career-and-technical studies.

February 26, 2016

National Education Policy Center

The National Education Policy Center is pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 Bunkum Award, recognizing the think tank whose reviewed work best captures the true spirit of bunk, starring in a feature report.


February 19, 2016

Sonali Kohli and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

“Let’s go, dolphins, let’s go!” chanted dozens of students, parents and teachers as they walked into 20th Street Elementary School before class, professing love for their neighborhood school, one that might soon become a charter school. They were part of a “walk-in” demonstration organized on Wednesday morning by teachers unions in Los Angeles and The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. The rallies around the country were hashtagged as #ReclaimOurSchools. In Los Angeles, they highlighted positive experiences at traditional public schools in the face of an increasing number of charter schools.


Zahira Torres, Los Angeles Times

Laura Rosales, mother of three, lives blocks from the site of Inglewood's planned NFL stadium.

Watching the fast-moving construction of a futuristic complex that is expected to bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues to the city makes her think about the toilets at her 7-year-old son's school. They are so dirty that he waits until he gets home to use the restroom. The high school that her teenage daughters attend chronically underperforms academically, as do most of the district's schools. And those aren't the only problems. Three years ago, after Inglewood school administrators hugely and repeatedly overspent their budget, the state took control of the district.


Maureen Magee, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Charter school growth has shaken up the landscape of public education in San Diego County in recent years, and there is no sign it’s slowing — stirring animosity and legal disputes that have made for tense relationships in districts that are scrambling to recoup enrollment.




February 12, 2016

Gene V. Glass, Arizona State University, National Education Policy Center

A democratically run public education system in America is under siege. It is being attacked by greedy, union-hating corporations and billionaire boys whose success in business has proven to them that their circle of competence knows no bounds. If we can find the answer to the question in our title, perhaps we will find the answer to the question “What can be done to restore democracy to public education in America?” But to begin to answer these questions, we have to start our inquiry some 30 years ago, when America’s public schools were said to be in a state of crisis.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Caprice Young thought the worst was behind her, that her group's charter schools would be free to grow after straightening out the poor financial record-keeping that prompted a recent state audit. She was wrong.The school district still found fault with her organization's petitions to open new campuses. District officials told her to expect rejection.


Janelle Scott, Tina Trujillo, and Marialena D. Riviera, University of California at Berkeley; Education Policy Analysis Archives

In this article, we advance a conceptual framework for the study of Teach For America (TFA) as a political and social movement with implicit and explicit ideological and political underpinnings. We argue that the second branch of TFA’s mission statement, which maintains that TFA’s greatest point of influence in public education is not in classrooms, but in its facilitation of entry into leadership positions aimed at reshaping public schooling, can be better understood in terms of the organization’s: a) infusion of “policy entrepreneurs” into educational policymaking processes; b) cultivation of powerful networks of elite interests; c) promotion of “corporate” models of managerial leadership; and, d) racial and social class identities of its corps members that facilitate entry into leadership and policy networks.

February 5, 2016

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

The Seventy Four, an organization whose co-founder is a controversial education advocate, has taken over LA School Report, a website covering the Los Angeles Unified School District. The organization's name is a reference to 74 million students attending public schools in the United States. The site was co-founded by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, who is part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn tenure protections for teachers in New York.

The group's funders include a roster of charter school supporters, such as the Walton Family Foundation, the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies.


Scott Schmerelson, Steve Zimmer, and George McKenna, EdSource

In their first meeting of the new year, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education set a strong new direction for the district by adopting the “Excellent Public Education for Every Student” resolution. The board’s unanimous approval of this action made it clear that the district would no longer be doing business as usual and would stand together to counter efforts to move more than 250,000 students from LAUSD public schools to privately operated charter schools.


Steven Rosenfeld, Salon

Insiders finger Wall Street for misspent funds and schools' poor performance. It's all part of a new PR strategy.


January 29, 2016

Rachel M. Cohen, The American Prospect

A provocative civil rights case in Minnesota could influence school integration efforts nationally.


Valerie Strauss, The Answer Sheet

Here is an open letter from Ramon Griffin, the former dean of students at a New Orleans “no excuses” charter school, who urges teachers and staff at such schools to question the model’s social and emotional costs on young people.


January 22, 2016

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC

The nonprofit formed to advance a plan to rapidly expand the number of Los Angeles students who attend charter schools announced on Thursday that it will be led by a long-time charter school lobbyist and activist. Myrna Castrejón will lead Great Public Schools Now, which launched in November by the backers of the charter expansion plan that was first developed by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. 


Emma Brown, The Washington Post

Netflix founder and chief executive Reed Hastings, a longtime supporter of charter schools, is creating a $100 million foundation for education, he announced on his Facebook page Tuesday.


Edwin Rios, Mother Jones

Acting US Secretary of Education John King has called charter schools "good laboratories for innovation." It's that kind of language that's helped the number of public charters jump from 1,542 in 1999 to 6,723 in 2014—when more than 1 million students sat on charter school waiting lists, including a whopping 163,000 in New York City alone. But, as four researchers argue in a recent study in the University of Richmond Law Review, charter schools could be on the same path that led to the subprime mortgage crisis.


January 15, 2016

Karen Quartz, Los Angeles Times

A philosophical controversy is also churning inside LAUSD: Should LAUSD become a competitive marketplace of schools, or grow as a democratic civic institution?


The Associated Press, New York Times

A foundation run by the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton plans to spend $1 billion on public schools over the next five years. The Walton Family Foundation planned to notify patrons Thursday that it hopes to establish new charter schools and help programs already in place. The money will be spent in about two dozen states where it has already aided programs.


January 8, 2016

Valerie Strauss, The Answer Sheet

With “The Big Short” doing well in theaters — a film about the near collapse of the financial system because of the bursting of a housing and credit bubble — here’s a piece that asks the simple question: “Are charter schools the new subprime loans?” The post by Jennifer Berkshire refers to a new study by four academics titled, “Are We Heading Toward a Charter School ‘Bubble’?: Lessons From the Subprime Mortgage Crisis.” This is a Q & A with Preston C. Green III, the lead author of the report and the John and Carla Klein Professor of Urban Education at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education. Berkshire, a freelance journalist and public education advocate, worked for six years editing a newspaper for the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts. She writes the EduShyster blog, where this first appeared.


Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle

A national contest with a $50 million prize pool and a billionaire backer has spurred teams across the country to reinvent the American high school, overhauling an antiquated model that hasn’t changed in 100 years.

December 18, 2015

Bruce D. Baker, Gary Miron, National Education Policy Center

This research brief details some of the prominent ways that individuals, companies, and organizations secure financial gain and generate profit by controlling and running charter schools. To illustrate how charter school policy functions to promote privatization and profiteering, the authors explore differences between charter schools and traditional public schools in relation to three areas: the legal frameworks governing their operation; the funding mechanisms that support them; and the arrangements each makes to finance facilities. They conclude with recommendations for policies that help ensure that charter schools pursue their publicly established goals and that protect the public interest.

In the Public Interest

There’s no free lunch. Yet across the country, advocates of Pay for Success (PFS), or Social Impact Bonds (SIBs), serve up this alternative private financing model as a cost-free, risk-free silver bullet to support critical, yet underfunded, public services. As local and state governments rush to pass enabling legislation and strike deals with investors, a closer examination of these schemes is warranted. 

Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post

A nonprofit group has begun a public relations campaign to defend Teach for America against critics of the program that places newly minted college graduates in teaching jobs in some of the country’s most challenging classrooms. The new campaign, called Corps Knowledge, is an offshoot of the New York Campaign for Achievement Now (NYCAN), a network that supports public charter schools and school choice and wants to weaken teacher tenure laws.


December 11, 2015

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

A new organization set up to create new, higher-performing public schools in Los Angeles has released a list of 49 successful campuses that it said would serve as models. Those schools, which include charters, magnets and traditional public campuses, are viewed as stellar examples of how to educate students in the L.A. Unified School District. They are being touted by those who, at least initially, had proposed enrolling half of L.A. students in charter schools over the next eight years.


Zahira Torres, Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge this week issued a preliminary injunction barring administrators at the city’s largest charter group from hampering efforts to unionize its teachers.


Julian Vasquez Heilig, Cambridge Forum

How do contemporary efforts to privatize public education square with the civic role that education has played in American democracy? Internationally recognized leader in education policy Julian Vasquez Heilig examines the variety of ways in which public education is being privatized in the name of “reform” and suggests ways for citizens to respond that both improve educational experience and strengthen the societal and civic role that education plays.


December 4, 2015

Valerie Strauss, The Answer Sheet

You can say this about Bill and Melinda Gates: They are persistent. They poured a few billion dollars into various school reform efforts in the past 15 years — but when things didn’t go quite as planned, they didn’t give up. They always came up with something else to try. That’s just what they are doing now (again).


Sean Cavanagh, EdWeek

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, today pledged to donate 99 percent of their company shares—currently valued at $45 billion—to support efforts to improve public health, education, and communities. A portion of that money will go into backing the popular, if often vaguely defined, goal of promoting "personalized learning" opportunities for students.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Nearly $2.3 million in donations made by charter school supporters during this year's Los Angeles school board races were shielded from disclosure until after the election was over, a review of records shows.


November 20, 2015

Pedro Noguera, EdSource

The proposal by the Broad Foundation to significantly increase the number of charter schools in Los Angeles over the next 10 years is being discussed and scrutinized by policymakers and the general public. It should be. If approved by the school board, the proposal could radically alter the face of public education in Los Angeles.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Backers of a plan to greatly expand successful charters and other high-quality public schools in the Los Angeles area have formed a nonprofit organization to move the effort forward, The Times has learned.


Zahira Torres, Los Angeles Times

Converting the nation’s second-largest school system into an all-charter district is a long-shot—one that requires state approval and support from a majority of teachers. But members of the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education said they were exploring all options -- even those that are unlikely -- as the district contends with a charter school expansion plan spearheaded by the Broad Foundation.


November 13, 2015

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

The Walton Family Foundation, a major education funder in Los Angeles, has announced a $50-million grant to Teach For America that will support the organization’s work in Southern California as well as across the nation.


Donald Cohen, In the Public Interest

Did you know that one of the fastest growing sectors of the charter school industry are ‘virtual’ charter schools, where K-12 students learn from home in front of their computers?


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Members of the Los Angeles Board of Education will be under pressure to take a position on a controversial plan to expand local charter schools because of a resolution being introduced at its meeting this week.


Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times

Entertainment industry billionaire David Geffen, who previously gave $300 million to support UCLA's medical school, is donating $100 million to establish a private middle and high school on the Westwood campus partly for the children of faculty and staff.

November 6, 2015

Zahira Torres and Ryan Menezes, Los Angeles Times

The Times' analysis shows that elementary school arts programs in poor neighborhoods have been the hardest hit despite the district's decades-long attempt to close the gap between low-income and more affluent students. A key factor contributing to the disparities is the ability of schools in more affluent areas to tap foundations and community members for help as district funds dwindled.


LA School Report

In its latest chess move opposing a massive charter school expansion plan spearheaded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the LA teachers union, UTLA, is planning citywide picketing at schools across LA Unified next Tuesday.


October 30, 2015

Margaret Weston, Public Policy Institute of California

As Table 3 shows, a school with the fewest relative share of low-income students will raise more than 50 times as much through voluntary contributions as a school at the other end of the spectrum. (See p. 8 of this report)


LA School Report

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation said today Paul Pastorek, a former superintendent of public education in Louisiana who joined the foundation in an executive role earlier this year, has been appointed to lead the group’s efforts to expand charter schools in Los Angeles Unified.


Craig Clough, LA School Report

Were it to come to fruition, the Broad Foundation‘s recently announced plan to expand charter schools in LA Unified to include half of all district students would create a system that is unprecedented in size and scope across the United States.


October 23, 2015

Arianna Prothero, Education Week

In the weeks since plans by an influential donor to massively expand charter schools in Los Angeles were leaked, major questions about the viability of the proposal have emerged.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

The union representing Los Angeles teachers has pulled together a coalition of other employee unions to oppose a controversial plan to more than double the number of local students attending charter schools.


Craig Clough, LA School Report

The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) will be seeking an injunction in Los Angeles County Superior Court to stop what it says is illegal interference by officials at Alliance College-Ready Public Schools against a unionization effort by some of its teachers.


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