The talented investigative journalist Jennifer Berkshire reports on the changing politics behind charter schools. Democratic support for charters, once led by the Obama administration, is waning. Betsy DeVos made clear that school choice is a Republican goal. view article arw

Despite the myth that the pandemic resulted in an increased appetite for privatized alternatives to public schools, the opposite is true, according to a new poll just published by EdNext. Support for both charter schools and vouchers is down by substantial amounts. Only 33% of all Democrats now support charter schools–that’s an all-time low. Less than half of all Americans (41%) now support them. Your constant advocacy for public schools and against privatized alternatives is paying off. view article arw

Carrollton’s 600-student Trivium Academy had 56 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases by Wednesday, with “the virus is so widespread that contact tracing becomes almost impossible.”  A North Texas charter school is temporarily closing its doors because of a COVID-19 outbreak, after nearly 1 in every 10 students reported a lab-confirmed case of the coronavirus.  Trivium Academy, a 600-student K-11 public charter school in Carrollton (the school expects to have its first graduating class in 2023), announced its pending closure Wednesday. Administrators and Denton County Public Health’s chief epidemiologist Juan Rodriguez found that illness was “so widespread that contact tracing becomes almost impossible,” Trivium Superintendent Sheryl Bradley wrote in a letter to parents. view article arw

Austin ISD is in an uphill battle to boost enrollment. The student population has been steadily shrinking for a decade, with the biggest drop just last year. The high cost of living in Austin is pushing people out. New census data shows a growing number are heading east on Highway 290 to see how much more they can get for their money in Manor. view article arw

A bit earlier than the larger school districts, Harmony Public Schools will see its students return to class on Tuesday. And to move forward with education in the system, 33 new teachers were hired. It now seems the 2021-22 school year will have a bevy of new faces on campus. They are divided up between Harmony’s three schools: School of Innovation, Science Academy and the School of Excellence. view article arw

The top lobbying group for the charter school industry is rushing to preserve millions in funds from the federal government that flow to charter operators that have turned their K-12 schools into profit-making enterprises, often in low-income communities of color. The group, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), objects to a provision in the House Appropriations Committee's proposed 2022 education budget that closes loopholes that have long been exploited by charter school operators that profit from their schools through management contracts, real estate deals, and other business arrangements. NAPCS also objects to the legislation's proposal to cut 9 percent from the federal government's troubled Charter Schools Program (CSP).    (29) view article arw

Since 2010, the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area has grown by over 580,000 residents to become the 29th largest metropolitan area in the United States. While many factors are responsible for the growth in the Austin Area, the high academic quality of locally governed school districts is a top contributor. Despite the documented success of school districts, privately managed charters continue to flood parents, taxpayers, and elected officials with marketing brochures, television/social media advertisements, and newspaper op-eds to recruit additional students from school districts. In most cases, the promotions target Minority and Economically Disadvantaged families with promises of success in “college and the jobs of tomorrow.” At face value, the promotions are appealing as every parent wants the best for their children. view article arw

The federal government has handed out billions of dollars to start new charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program program started small, in 1994, with less than $10 million. At that time, based on hope, not evidence, charter schools, it was believed, would be more innovative, more accountable, and better than district public schools. Twenty-six years later, we know more, and we know that many charters fail, few are accountable, and precious little innovation has come from them. But the funding for the program has grown and grown. The federal government is now the biggest funder of new charters. Under Betsy DeVos, most of the annual appropriation of $440 million was doled out to charter chains, like KIPP and IDEA, not to teacher-led schools or mom-and-pop schools. view article arw

The House Appropriations Committee has caused a stir with one tiny paragraph in its 198-page health, labor and education spending bill. SEC. 314. None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be awarded to a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school. The presence of for-profit operators in the charter school sector has long been a concern for critics, with almost all states outlawing a charter school strictly run for profit. But charter school operators have long worked a variety of loopholes, keeping the sector a highly profitable one, and most of those loopholes involve a non-profit charter school hiring a for-profit business.    (23) view article arw

Privately managed charters were approved as an experiment to improve the public education system. The original bill analysis for the authorizing legislation states explicitly that charter supporters said: “It is worth trying an experiment that is being attempted with some success in other states.” Two generations of students, 293 charters, and $30 billion of taxpayer funding later, the State cannot document that privately managed charters produce better results than locally governed school districts. According to the State’s Academic Accountability Rating System mandated by the Texas legislature, school districts continue to outperform charters. Additionally, the State cannot document the educational purpose or benefit affiliated with the hundreds of charter expansions previously approved in local communities. view article arw

Here’s a very short quiz:The Hillsborough County School Board in Florida met this month to consider a dozen proposals to open new charter schools or extend the operating agreements on others. The board considered data, recommendations of its staff and testimony from community members about the charters, which are funded by public tax dollars but privately operated.  Then it voted to approve four and deny eight (not always accepting the staff’s counsel). Four of those denied were requests from existing schools to keep. The decisions were made by the board made after members learned about poor academic outcomes, violations of federal law and other issues at some of the schools. Those four schools are supposed to now close and their students must find other schools. view article arw

The charter industry has set a target on Texas as a new frontier for expansion. With a rightwing Governor and state commissioner who support privatization of public money meant for public schools, the outlook was bright. The state leadership doesn’t care that public schools outperform charter schools and close down with alarming frequency. The big-money fellas don’t care about violating local control or the corporatization of an essential public service. This is a state where a charter chain wanted to lease a private jet for $2 million a year, spent $400,000 on box seats for San Antonio Spurs basketball games, and the CEO left office with a $1 million golden parachute. view article arw