Special treatment for charter schools. There’ll be more, not less, as the Billionaire Boys Club’s rental of members of the legislature continues to pay rewards.
The Citizens First Congress is now raising a ruckus about a proposal in the hopper from Gov. Mike Beebe to carve $10 million out of the budget for charter school construction, an expenditure that previously had not been part of the funding formula for these schools. They already are guaranteed the same minimum foundation aid paid all other conventional public schools and their payment is not offset by local property tax collections, as is the case with regular school districts. We wrote disapprovingly of Beebe’s idea earlier.
Citizens First Congress notes the many unmet needs of existing school districts.
Many existing school facilities are not meeting students’ needs. The facilities fund is depleting and was just cut by another $16 million. The state has not done a comprehensive facilities assessment since 2004, but we know that there are big disparities, with some students in state-of-the-art facilities while many children in rural and low-income areas are in schools that don’t even meet minimal standards of ‘safe, warm, and dry.’
The proposed special funding for charter schools also raises many questions. Do we need to create a new special funding stream and more special rules for charter schools which on the whole do not do any better at educating our kids than traditional schools? Why are charter schools not required to go through the normal adequacy and facility process that every other public school must use?
The grassroots group also provides a good Q&A about this idea. One critical question is what happens to state investments in charter schools that fail? (Of course, this presumes the state will ever meaningfully enforce oversight of charters. To date, the oversight has been sketchy.) Why, too, should charter schools get a pass from adequacy studies? I’ll tell you why. The billionaires have convinced a gullible populace that attaching the word “charter” to the word “schoo”l means it’s better than a real public school district. The test scores don’t show it, here or anywhere. Their staffs don’t have the same level of certification. The management groups often hide behind the worst sort of education-speak. See Responsive Education Solutions for, to name one, the self-directed study time they provide their students in a school day. This is known elsewhere as study hall, a cheap and unproductive alternative to putting kids in front of a paid teacher. They also teach junk. See all the recent reporting about Responsive Ed’s teaching of creationism (religion) as science in publicly funded classrooms.
Here’s a letter to legislators on the issue full of fact-filled points, which means it will be consigned immediately to the round file by the increasing number of legislators beholden to the Billionaire Boys Club and its many-tentacled lobbying combine. It includes the Walton-owned university in Fayetteville and a charter school lobby organization run by a guy, Gary Newton, whose aunt, Diane Zook, conveniently sits on the state Board of Education by the governor’s appointment and votes on his projects. “Citizens” don’t stand a chance.