Sunday, November 23, 2014

How Charter School Operators Bilk Taxpayers and Shortchange Students

Predatory charters are being allowed to circumvent or ignore state laws and BESE policies to accomplish their goals of culling and selecting students for the purpose of artificially rigging the performance of charter schools. In other cases charter operators are given specific exemptions from laws that allow them to pocket huge profits. There is actually very little concern by those for-profit charter managers for students that are cast aside. I call these schools predatory because they are preying on our tax dollars, using our children as feedstock for their profit schemes and draining funds and higher performing students from the true public schools.

The Bounty System
How does the predatory scam work? Crazy Crawfish has reported and documented bounty flyers designed to pay parents and friends for getting citizens to fill out applications to send children to charter schools. A greater quantity of feedstock allows more selection and more units of desirable achievers. Since the main source of revenue for the charter operators is our per student MFP allocation, it is clear that some of our tax dollars are being diverted from education to bribe people to get them to apply to send their children to certain charter schools. Why does our legislature allow our tax money to be used for profit and to draw students away from the real public schools? Do you think maybe there is money diverted to their campaign contributions? As Noel Hammatt loves to say: "Follow the Money."

Forced Parent Work Policies
BESE Bulletin 126 which defines charter school guidelines apparently prohibits forced parent work contributions but in the same sentence allows waivers. Read this charter policy now in effect in several Louisiana charter schools managed by out-of-state for-profit management companies. Such a policy allows a way for charter managers to dump students whose parents are not willing to cooperate with the rules requiring this type of parent involvement. Here is the contract parents are required to sign as a prerequisite to their child's acceptance to the charter school.

Lets be clear. Positive parent involvement with their child’s school is a very good thing and may be critical to a child’s success in school. In fact there is a state law that encourages public schools to ask parents to sign contracts with the schools similar to those signed by charter school parents to get a commitment from parents to attend parent conferences, respond to homework assignments etc. The only problem is that the real public schools have no enforcement mechanism for parents who refuse to cooperate. The charters on the other hand can literally throw the student out of school or prohibit him/her from enrolling for the next school year.  The low performers whose parents refuse to cooperate with the forced work requirement will find themselves being sent back to the real public schools. Of course those that are doing well academically and helping to boost the charter’s performance score will never have to worry about being kicked out.

Rejection for Discipline Infractions
The real public schools are severely limited in their right to suspend or expel disruptive and uncooperative students. In fact some school systems have been subjected to mandatory regulation of their suspension practices by outside masters appointed by the LDOE.  State law requires public school systems to continue to provide full educational services even to students expelled for major discipline infractions and for dangerous behavior. The charters however are routinely allowed to dump their disruptive and uncooperative students right back to the real public schools. Most of these extremely disruptive students are the lowest performers on the state accountability tests, so this process allows the predatory charters to shift some of their lowest performers to the real public schools.

Culling Out Students with Severe Academic Disabilities
Many charters don’t bother to hire special education teachers who are qualified to work with severely handicapped children who often have disabilities that greatly lower academic performance as measured by accountability tests.  That way they can counsel parents of severely disabled students to send them somewhere else. Just a two or three percent restriction or exclusion of special education students will have a huge positive impact on charter school performance scores.  This gimmick has not worked so well for the charter schools of the New Orleans Recovery District because there are no longer real public schools in which to dump their rejects. This story in NOLA.com demonstrates how splitting up the New Orleans school system into independent charters has destroyed the economies of scale that would have allowed a larger system to better serve students with disabilities.

Legislative Exemptions Allow Charter Operators to Pocket MFP Dollars
This blog has already described how predatory charters have been allowed by law to avoid participating in the teacher and school employee retirement systems.  This exemption allows predatory charters to save a huge chunk of payroll related costs that are being assessed to the real public schools to pay for the unfunded liability of the retirement systems that were created by bad legislative policies.  Some charters save lots of money by not providing bus service to school. This also helps to cull more undesirable students whose parents cannot afford transportation to school. These huge savings allow the charter managers to convert millions of MFP dollars into rental charges, management fees, and sheer excessive profit to the out of state profiteers. Yet statistics consistently show that students in those charters enjoy no improvement of services or performance compared to the real public schools.

Another huge money saver goes to the two state approved virtual charter schools that are allowed to recruit students statewide. Chas Roemer, the BESE president whose sister runs the Louisiana Charter Association, made the motion that allocates 90% of the regular MFP dollars per student to these charters that avoid transportation costs, building costs, food service costs, library costs, janitorial services etc. and can pocket the huge savings.  Also the students are exempted from the mandatory attendance laws, so no one can monitor how many of the students actually attend classes every day, even though the schools receive funding as though all students are attending.


All of these tactics and special exemptions make running charter schools in Louisiana a highly profitable business..

1 comment:

Bridget said...

But of course no one is complaining that we have a highly segregated charter school population. Many parents are happy to have "those" students out of their schools. So no one is there to advocate for our students with disabilities and students with the myriad of problems associated with growing up in poverty. Our schools are becoming more and more re-segregated. How is it that our elected officials care so little about the children of our state who have no voice. Right now money talks in Louisiana. But these forgotten children will one day grow up to be the adults in our state. Public school teachers are doing their best to hang in there, but we are fighting a losing battle. Such selfish and greedy actions by our legislators who fail to protect our most vulnerable young citizens. One day we will all pay the price for this stupidity.