Are Charter Schools the New Subprime Mortgages?

A new study warns that we may be headed towards a charter school *bubble*…

sad bubbleEduShyster: It’s unusual to see the words *hair-raising* and *academic study* in tandem, but your new study merits that marriage. You and your co-authors make the case that, just as with subprime mortgages, the federal government is encouraging the expansion of charter schools with little oversight, and the result could be a charter school *bubble* that blows up in urban communities. Do I have it right?

Preston GreenThe problem of subprime mortgages began in part because the government tried to increase homeownership for poor people and minorities by enabling private entities to offer more mortgages without assuming the risk. Under the old system, the mortgage originator was still at risk if the mortgage went into default. With subprime, they were able to spread that risk by selling the mortgages on the secondary market. You had all these mortgage originators that could issue more mortgages without careful screening because they no longer had skin in the game. Now how are charter schools similar to subprime? In the charter school context, charter school authorizers are like mortgage originators. Continue reading →

Give the Gift of Student Voice—In New Orleans

A holiday shout out to Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools

RethinkersReader: this is typically the time of year when I ask you to open your hearts, meaning your wallets, on my behalf. But this year I’ve decided to roll a little differently. (This has nothing to do with the fact that last year’s fund drive, which I outsourced to the man to whom I’m *technically* married, was a dud!). So instead of asking for your love and largesse, I’d like you to consider making a generous donation to one of the most amazing student groups I’ve come across: Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools. Shall I pause here while you call your broker?  Continue reading →

All in the Family

Has Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser been lobbying himself?

Update: Families for Excellent Schools shared via Twitter that Peyser is no longer on their board. No word on why the Secretary of State still lists him as a director of their 501 (c) (3) and (c) (4). And no word on why I got no response when I put the question to FES directly via email on 12/4… 

Reader: having now corresponded from the wilds of education reform land for some three years now (!), I’ve grown more or less inured to the conflicts of interest that seem to bloom like algae wherever homo reformus sets up shop. But when a tipster contacted me, asking if I was aware that Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser sits on the board of a charter school advocacy group, and directs its lobbying arm, even I was agog. So I followed the trail of breadcrumbs that the tipster helpfully provided to the Secretary of State’s corporations division where I typed in Peyser’s name, and voila, there Peyser was, or rather is…

PeyserFES

Continue reading →

Bad Apples

Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker shines a light on some extremely shady charter industry practices—and causes my hair to literally catch on fire…

BadAppleEduShyster: Your new study, about the policies that charter school operators use for financial benefit, is harshly critical of a few bad apples. But why focus on them as opposed to, say, the high-performing many?

Bruce Baker: The important context for this report is to understand just who are the dominant charter managers in the landscape. You’ve got Imagine, you’ve got National Heritage, you’ve got White Hat and you’ve got Charter Schools USA. A lot of academics and charter advocates are going to think well *those aren’t the big ones like KIPP and Uncommon.* But KIPP and Uncommon aren’t the big ones. The big ones are Imagine, National Heritage, White Hat and Charter Schools USA. If we were to decide that here and now is the time to clean all this stuff up and just shut down a bunch of these operators, we’d be taking out a sizable share of charter schools in Florida and Ohio. Continue reading →

Just the Facts, Ma’am

I sit down with Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump (which is a lot more exciting than it sounds…)

Bump

State Auditor Suzanne Bump performs an audit of her audit.

EduShyster: First of all, allow me to congratulate you. You took the top spot in a category that I like to call *most read audit by people who have never read an audit before.* I’m talking, of course, about your audit of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), specifically, their oversight of the state’s charter schools. What did you find?

Suzanne BumpWhat we found was that DESE was using subjective standards, that there wasn’t an even application of standards when they were, say, renewing the charters of schools. We looked to try and determine whether the data they were putting out relative to student demographics was accurate, whether waitlists were accurate. This is information that guides DESE’s policy making and we found it to be unreliable because the state never verifies it. Data reliability testing is the first thing you do in auditing. You can’t reach proper conclusions if we can’t rely upon the data and we found that we couldn’t rely upon the data. That’s a warning to DESE that they shouldn’t be either.  Continue reading →