Walton Family Foundation Expands Support of Charter Schools, etc.Skip to content Skip to main navigation
Walton Family Foundation Expands Support of Charter Schools, etc.
The Walton Family Foundation announced a donation of $250 million to help charter schools lease space, reported The Wall Street Journal. A central impediment to charter school growth has been occupancy costs. Where charter schools obtain free space in school district buildings, their per-pupil allocations approximate per-pupil allocations in district schools. However, where such free space is not obtained, charter schools operate at a significant financial disadvantage. This Walton initiative will focus on established charter school networks with proven records as well as promising new charter schools in 17 cities, Boston, Camden, N.J., and New York among them. This donation comes six months after a $1 billion donation from the same foundation to spur charter school growth.
The push for educational privatization in Michigan initiated a generation ago by Governor John Engler has resulted in abundant choice in Detroit but little quality, Kate Zernike wrote in a detailed story in The New York Times. With approximately 55 percent of its students attending charter schools, Detroit has the second highest degree of charter enrollment in the country, behind only New Orleans, which transmuted into a largely charter district after Hurricane Katrina. Facilitating growth in Detroit, Zernike wrote, is a controversial clause in a 2011 education law permitting for-profit educational management organizations (EMOs), such as J.C. Huizinga's National Heritage Academies, to rent space to schools they operate without paying taxes on their real estate earnings.
The U.S. Department of Education recommended on June 15 that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) lose its recognition, according to The Wall Street Journal. The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), an advisory board serving the Department of Education (DOE), a week later endorsed that recommendation, reported the Associated Press. ACICS, founded in 1912, has been at the center of a storm battering the for-profit colleges it certified. Attorneys general in as many as 37 states have conducted fraud investigations into for-profit colleges for having enrolled underqualified applicants, inflated passing rates of students, and exaggerated employment data of graduates. Should a senior DOE official in the coming months act on the NACIQI endorsement and should ACICS then fail to win a reversal on appeal in court, reported The Wall Street Journal, the for-profit colleges certified by ACICS may face a loss of "access to nearly $5 billion in federal financial aid for more than 800,000 students." A sector already in retreat could collapse.
A record number of charter schools in Ohio are set to close this year in response to a new state law mandating tighter standards, reported The Columbus Dispatch. According to officials at the Ohio Department of Education, at least 19 of the state's 374 charter schools will not reopen. Last year, the total was 14.
In return for conferring one more year of control of New York City's schools to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Republicans in the State Senate appear to have extracted a concession from Democrats that would lift the lid on the number of uncertified teachers charter schools may employ, according to The New York Times. The charter advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools issued a statement calling the compromise "a massive victory." New York State law currently stipulates that charter schools may have no more than 15 uncertified teachers on staff. As several charter school networks depend heavily on young teachers who've yet to earn certification, this modification of the law would significantly diminish pressure on leaders to staff their schools. The Assembly speaker, Carl E. Heastie, a Democrat, as well as spokesmen for Mayor de Blasio, however, disputed the interpretation of the wording of the compromise, claiming state charter law regarding employment of uncertified teachers remained unchanged. Trustees of the State University of New York will have the final word.
Setting aside whether the high fees and uneven performance of hedge funds justify them as investment vehicles for the money of retirees, AFT president Randi Weingarten is pulling money from hedge funds opposed to teachers' unions, reported The Wall Street Journal. Many hedge fund leaders, Daniel Loeb of Third Point LLC among them, are heavy backers of non-union charter schools and ardent critics of teachers' unions. Weingarten said in an interview with the newspaper, "Why would you put your money with someone who wants to destroy you?" Loeb, chairman of the board of Success Academy, is fighting back. At a fundraiser for Success Academy in May, Loeb pledged an extra $1 million to the charter network in Weingarten's name.
In a scathing rebuke, the editorial board of The New York Times blasted Governor Chris Christie's recommendation that New Jersey's landmark compensatory school funding formula be repealed. The editors called Christie's proposal "toxic." Grounded in a 1990 state court decision to allocate more money to poor school districts suffering from inadequate local property tax revenue, New Jersey's formula significantly subsidizes 31 school districts, several of them home to many charter schools.
Twenty-five years after Minnesotan lawmakers introduced the process of chartering schools, Education Week interviewed Ember Reichgott Junge and Ted Kolderie, two authors of the legislation, and documented the divergence of expectations and realities. The legislation itself broke from recommendations made by Albert Shanker in 1988 that charter schools function as experimental academies operated within the boundaries of district and union contracts. That breach, in turn, led to the unexpected operation of charter networks across the country. Minnesota nevertheless remained faithful to Shanker's vision in two critical respects, reported Education Week: first, only in Minnesota has the authority of chartering schools rested with an organization created by a local teachers' union (i.e., the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, a creation of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers); and second, only four of the state's 160 charter schools are managed by multistate charter networks, whereas approximately 40 percent of charter schools across the country are overseen by such networks.*
In a wide-ranging essay for The New Yorker, David Denby deconstructed the concept of "grit" espoused by Angela Duckworth and embraced by charter school networks employing the "no excuses" philosophy of hard work. Citing research by neuroscientists and pediatricians into early childhood development, Denby argued that "high levels of toxic stress" experienced by youngsters in blighted neighborhoods may put the development of grit "out of reach" for many of the students the focus on character growth is intended to help.
* The initial publication of this bulletin derived from incorrect reportage regarding the role of the teachers' union as a charter authorizer in Minnesota. It is not the union itself that serves as a charter authorizer but rather an independent association created by members of one local affiliate.
Published Tuesday, Jul. 5, 2016