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Rotten apple
Diane Ravitch points out a particularly blatant, but not especially surprising, example of charter school abuse of the concept of public education for all:
The Minneapolis School Board closed down Cityview, one of its public schools whose test scores were too low, it replaced Cityview with a charter school, Minneapolis School of Science. The charter school has told the families of 40 children with special needs–children with Down Syndrome and autism–that they are not wanted at the school. Clearly the schools is bouncing these children to improve their test scores.
Charter school officials explicitly say it was just too hard for them to teach the special needs students:
MSS school board members say they were reluctant to agree to mainstream the students. “We almost chose not to come to this building because of it,” said board member Gene Scapanski. The charter’s goal is for 90 percent of its academically struggling, mostly low-income and non-white students to earn proficient scores on state tests within three years. “To bring children to that level of growth and then to have in addition that other challenge, it seemed like more than we could handle. We didn’t know if we could be successful.”
Picking and choosing which kids they can be successful educating is a choice traditional public schools don't get. They have to try to do their best by every child. So if this charter school succeeds, it does so by refusing to even try to educate special needs students that the public school it replaced did educate. And those kids, for whom stability is especially important, are now forced to relocate on short notice.

A fair day's wage

  • Texas A&M is outsourcing more than 1,600 jobs to a private contractor. The workers are being forced to resign from the university and reapply for their same jobs with the contractor; they're told they'll get comparable pay and benefits, but you don't have to be a hardened cynic to question the long-term truth of that.
  • More unemployment stories.
  • The decline and rescue of the American auto industry as seen from the shop floor:
    Republicans, who paraded “Joe the Plumber” on the campaign trail, demonstrated that they despise labor in general and organized labor in particular. They accused UAW members of making too much money and bargaining successfully for health care and pensions. They referred to retiree benefits as “entitlements.” As if we didn’t earn those benefits. As if the nature of our work—production, as opposed to paper shuffling—rendered us ineligible for deferred compensation. As if people who actually produce a good or service don’t deserve such basic amenities as health care. As if dignity in retirement was reserved for those who never got grease under their fingernails. As if a wage that allowed you to pay the bills on time and send your children to college offended the capitalist creed. As if legally binding contracts with workers were toilet paper. As if the right to bargain collectively was illegal.
  • Let's keep listening to Hyatt workers on why they're calling for a boycott of the hotel chain. Cathy Youngblood says:
    “I would love to have a meeting with (Hyatt family heir, board member and Chicago philanthropist) Penny Pritzker, but then I’m a woman of color and I’m lower wage, maybe she thinks I don’t have enough education,” says Youngblood. “They’re a billionaire company, they have a different mindset. I think it’s ignorant. They should know by now there is worker dissatisfaction within the Hyatt family. They could get on a plane and come in here and say ‘Ok ladies, what’s going on?’ But instead they just talk about all their awards and accolades and diversity, and don’t want to hear the real story.”
    Fitted sheets are one of the things she and other housekeepers say would make their jobs less physically taxing. But Hyatt won't even do a thing as simple as that.

State and local legislation

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Comment Preferences

  •  Public education means public. (10+ / 0-)

    No Public $$ for "charter" schools.

    I'm from the Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner Wing of the Democratic Party!

    by TomP on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:01:32 AM PDT

    •  Agree completely. My kids went to public (7+ / 0-)

      schools. They went to school with kids who had disabilities, everything from Down Syndrome to autism to other behavioral and perceptual disorders. This is the role of the public schools. They are supposed to serve the people. If schools want to pick and choose, they should not receive public money.

      •  agree 100% -- the privateers are out to (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blue jersey mom, jbob, Larsstephens

        "dismantle" public education (true agenda item for the GOP) not "reform" it.  As they move toward this, they are taking advantage of every tax dollar and every government tax break they can.

        GOP state legislatures are facilitating this while draining the funding from traditional public schools.  The radical right wing (with $$ from their funders) is doing what they can to secure/buy/steal the elections of any candidate who supports ending public education--from the local school board level all the way up to the U.S. Congress.

        They are con men.  And the embodiement of that is now the Republican candidate for president.  

        If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it. -- Eugene Debs.

        by livjack on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:49:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  this is insulting to teachers! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Do NOT call committed charter teachers who love their students "privateers". That's just disgusting.

          Charter schools are NOT the vast right-wing conspiracy. That would be vouchers.

          Obama is our Reagan.
          Romney is their Mondale.

          by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 10:33:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm sure charter teachers love their (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            paychecks, which are generally smaller than their unionized peers at regular schools.

            In any case, I'm not sure how many "committed" charter school teachers their are, as many schools seem to have problems attracting and keeping staff. A friend of mine sat on the board of a charter school here in MN, and openly admitted to me that most of their teachers have less than 2 years of experience and turnover is high. She didn't think it was a big deal.

            •  depends on the charter (0+ / 0-)

              My kids attended the same charter for six years. Turnover was very low - most of the staff was there the entire six years. It really depends on the school. Teachers that weren't suited to the environment (which is unique) rarely stayed more than a year. The school is run as a teachers' cooperative, with no principal or traditional administration.

              Does it pay less than comparable mainstream school jobs? I don't know. But I DO know that the environment was so engaging (for teachers as well as students) that I can easily see teachers compromising their pay in order to get the authority and academic excellence they enjoyed there.

              But you can't judge all charters by a single one. They're small businesses in a way, and suffer from risk.

              Obama is our Reagan.
              Romney is their Mondale.

              by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 12:40:55 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  all respect to teachers but . . . (0+ / 0-)

            It is quite clear - the right wing does not even bother to hide this anymore - that charter schools are, in fact, an important tactic in the effort to destabilize and privatize public education.

            I know there must be many teachers in those schools (certainly the majority of them) who don't want to be part of this effort, but . . . they are sleeping with the enemy.

            For progressives, our mantra must be:  Excellent free public education for all!

            For what is the crime of the robbing of a bank compared to the crime of the founding of a bank? - Brecht

            by Joe Hill PDX on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 11:55:46 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  For profit charters (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, jbob, fuzzyguy, Larsstephens

    are a scam. They cherry pick students, lower wages, and help bust unions. Oh, and their educational outcomes are no better than traditional public schools with unionized teachers.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:12:47 AM PDT

    •  What about not-for-profit charters? (0+ / 0-)

      Is it fair to tar ALL charter schools because a few are problematic? Is that a liberal value?

      Obama is our Reagan.
      Romney is their Mondale.

      by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 12:56:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If we're talking about anecdote vs. data, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        you're bringing much more of the former than the latter; I wouldn't be accusing others on that front if I were you.

        I get that you're happy with the charter school your kids are in. But you do a whole lot of extremely ideological, anecdotal extrapolating from there that just isn't backed up by the available evidence.

        •  what? (0+ / 0-)

          "Is it fair to tar ALL charter schools because a few are problematic? Is that a liberal value?"


          People in this thread have called charter schools "privateers", insulted teachers and parents, made extravagant claims that are both factually and logically wrong, and you're not calling THEM out.

          Ideological indeed.

          So here's a question for you... should charters be allowed to exist, if properly regulated? Or do you feel that charters cannot possibly be beneficial?

          Obama is our Reagan.
          Romney is their Mondale.

          by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:33:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Charters (0+ / 0-)

            profit or non, overall have shown no better results than traditional public schools. First year charter students often suffer a decline in performance. Students not in poverty tend to show less (or no) improvement than others. While there are some charters that out-perform traditional public schools, there are many that do not, or that do worse, and political forces often make it difficult to close those charters that fail. Urban charters seem to do better at outperforming their traditional counterparts than others.

            A large study can be found here (pdf).

            "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

            by happy camper on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 02:28:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  why do they have to "perform better" (0+ / 0-)

              At standardized testing? Isn't that kind of a right-wing agenda thing?

              They provide diversity and choice, without resorting to vouchers and other backdoors for private/religious and separate/unequal education. That's a Good Thing in my book.

              Obama is our Reagan.
              Romney is their Mondale.

              by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:39:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  If they don't (0+ / 0-)

                perform better, then what is the point? Is it OK if they do worse? If academic improvement is not the goal, then there is no reason for charters, or vouchers, or any of the other backdoor ways the right has dreamed up to undercut public education and the hated teacher's unions.

                If all you want is choice of school, that can be accomplished with magnet programs in traditional public education settings.

                "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

                by happy camper on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 06:30:11 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  This is just one of the many scams of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    charters. They get to choose the cream of the crop. And if a child is not what they would deem in the best interests of the school, forget it.  That child is VERY left behind.

    I heard a story (sorry I don't remember where so no link) years ago that some charter school let go an entire class of students because, quite frankly, they all failed. There was no desire whatsoever to help these kids to find out why they all failed simultaneously. They were simply all told to go elsewhere.

  •  Those special needs kids cut into the profit (0+ / 0-)

    If they have severe issues it can cost real money to accommodate them.

  •  It's also against the law. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:25:13 AM PDT

  •  Some misconceptions about Minnesota charters (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    These are things I learned from having two children spend seven years in Minnesota charter schools (they just graduated this year)...

    1. They are generally nonprofit ventures. For-profit charters plague other states, but education isn't a very profitable field - especially when charters don't get the same local tax-base subsidies regular public-school districts get. Charters get by on less money than public schools, generally.

    2. Charter schools generally specialize in a particular way of learning. This makes them less able to handle special cases or needs that don't fit their educational model. That doesn't make them WRONG, just limited. By the same token, charters often specialize in students who are difficult to absorb into the mainstream. For example, Minneapolis has a charter for bilingual Somali-language children. A specialized school adapted to their needs helps mainstream them, rather than isolating them in schools that can't handle their language needs.

    The charter high school my kids attended has a high concentration of special-needs students with learning disabilities. Around 25% of the students are on some sort of IEP (mostly for ADD and autism-spectrum disorders). My son has severe Aspergers, and received extraordinary support for it, making him a far more successful student than he would have been in a mainstream school.

    3. Charters aren't "union busting". No one is preventing charter schools from joining the NEA. The fact that so many charter teachers CHOOSE not to unionize reflects badly on teacher's unions, in my opinion. Some charter school teachers are unionized (particularly in charters run by regular districts).

    4. Charter provide a test-bed for academic innovation. Frankly, it's not a good idea to conduct large-scale experiments in education across entire districts. Charters provide a means for educators and parents to voluntarily cooperate in trying new methods, methods that can then spread to other schools.

    5. Charters cannot "select" students, at least not in Minnesota. Popular charters may have a wait list, but students are selected randomly. A school may try to have individual students removed because the school cannot meet their needs, but it is a traumatic experience for what is a tight-knit community.

    Hopefully this clears up some misconceptions. As usual, I'm appalled by the ignorance and prejudice about charter schools that plagues liberals. To me, charter schools are about DIVERSITY. Isn't that one of our values?

    Obama is our Reagan.
    Romney is their Mondale.

    by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 10:31:06 AM PDT

    •  Explain the stanford study, then, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joe Hill PDX, Larsstephens

      which showed Charters don't do better than regular schools? 17% did better, 37% did worse.

      "The Quality Curve results are sobering:   
      • Of the 2403 charter schools reflected on the curve, 46 percent of charter schools have
      math gains that are statistically indistinguishable from the average growth among their
      TPS comparisons.   
      • Charters whose math growth exceeded their TPS equivalent growth by a significant
      amount account for 17 percent of the total.   
      • The remaining group, 37 percent of charter schools, posted math gains that were
      significantly below what their students would have seen if they enrolled in local
      traditional public schools instead. "

      The rest of your points are easily dismantled:

      1. Nonprofit is not in and of itself a sign of quality. Blue Cross insurance of Minnesota is "nonprofit." Nonprofit organizations are often a channel for the rich and powerful.
      2. Charters as specialty schools. In some limited circumstances, you might be right. But we don't have evidence that this approach works (see study above) and most of the time, the special group in question is basically being used as an excuse to create a charter school which has other ideological goals.
      3. Charters are in fact union busting. It is very difficult to create a union in America today. By creating these schools without initial union cooperation, the schools undermine unions. And no, that doesn't reflect on teachers unions. It reflects on the massive power anti-union forces have in America today.
      4. As a test-bed for academic innovation, charters apparently suck (see study above). It's also a myth that regular public schools can't "innovate." Mostly, innovation seems to mean "pay teachers less and have them quit after 2 years."
      5. The article above is about a charter school in Minnesota actually trying to select students. It may be that they will be smacked down for it, but they are trying to do  that. That's why the article was written.

      •  your arguments are flawed (0+ / 0-)

        1. I never said charters were BETTER, or that they would raise test scores. I think proponents who claim that are being dishonest. I said that they provide a framework for educational diversity that is not possible in traditional schools. What about charters that specialize in special-needs kids?

        2. Cite. You're making a claim of ideological goals without evidence. In fact, it is quite contrary to my own experience of students at two charter schools, and talking with parents of children in at least a dozen others.

        3. Cite. Can you show me ONE instance of union-busting when charter schools try to organize? And seriously, you think a little charter school business is more powerful politically or economically than the NEA? I'm sure the NEA would LOVE a loud, public test case and would happily fund it with pockets as deep as the vast right-wing conspiracy you fear runs charters.

        4. Academic innovation doesn't necessarily mean better test scores. Seriously, what's with the testing obsession? I thought it was Republicans imposing a standardized-test mentality on broader educational goals.

        5. The charter school is trying to do specialized education - improving the academic success rate of basically mainstreamable kids in the worst neighborhood in Minneapolis. They're moving into a building where the previous public school was closed for sheer incompetence. If they have to take those students, they cannot fulfill their academic mission. You're basically arguing against the chance to specialize.

        And finally, this quote from the Center for Public Education says a lot...

        The survey also shows charter teachers have less experience than those at typical public schools; more than one-fourth (29 percent) had less than three years full-time teaching experience compared with 12 percent of those at traditional schools. Finally, while the average public school teacher earned $34,690, the typical charter school teacher was slightly behind at $32,070, or by about 8 percent. Future research might examine if the comparison of the average charter school teacher salary accounted for charter school teachers’ years of experience, or by the longer hours worked by some teachers.

        However, charters were more likely than traditional public schools to have differential pay levels. Hoxby’s survey showed that charter schools were willing to pay more for teachers with degrees from select colleges, with degrees in a subject (such as history or English) as opposed to education, those with strong math/science skills, and those willing to work extra hours beyond the regular school day.

        Obama is our Reagan.
        Romney is their Mondale.

        by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:10:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, come on now. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          For one thing, two hours before you asked for one citation to an example of union-busting by a charter, I had given a couple. For another thing, some charter schools are individual small organizations. But while there are several large charter school chains chains, the real money behind charter schools writ large, not just individual schools or even chains, comes from Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, the Waltons, Eli Broad, and a raft of hedge fund millionaires and billionaires.  We're talking huge money here. The teachers of the NEA and the AFT do not and cannot match that kind of money.

          You need to bring some actual information beyond your own assertions. Others have brought plenty.

          •  I hadn't read your response yet (0+ / 0-)

            You did cite two union-busting instances. Good. One was clearly slitting the school's own throat (the free market in action - in a hostile environment, teachers and parents can vote with their feet). I still don't see a broad pattern here, and I've been following this issue a long time. Maybe I'm just stupid.

            And you must admit, it's hard to argue that billionaires are funding a charter school push because they're all for standardized test scores, and also argue that charter schools perform worse than public schools - that seems to be the essence of your argument.

            Obama is our Reagan.
            Romney is their Mondale.

            by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:29:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  and another anecdote you'll hate (0+ / 0-)

            Both of my in-laws were public school teachers. My mother-in-law was a district president for the NEA until she retired. When our children started attending a charter, she was VERY hostile about it, due to the "union busting" thing.

            After six years at the school my children attended, she watched her granddaughter graduate with the intent to become a teacher herself, inspired by her charter school teachers and the 300 hour project she was able to do on exploring a teaching career (including actual practice in the classroom). And she talked to teachers who run their own school and manage their own budget, free from a hostile administrative bureaucracy.

            All of her anti-charter bias is gone. She's a believer.

            Yeah, yeah. One school, one anecdote. But it's IMPORTANT. My daughter, who would have been crushed as an outcast and ignored for being a poor student in a regular public school, became a popular student leader and a stellar student, and will become a teacher herself, to continue those charter school values to a new generation. My daughter. She wouldn't be where she is now without that school.

            So yes, I'll argue strongly for charters. For me, it's personal.

            Obama is our Reagan.
            Romney is their Mondale.

            by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:44:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  you just said charter schools aren't better (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and implied that being better is not one of their goals.


          •  how do you measure "better"? (0+ / 0-)

            Standardized testing, like a good Republican.

            What about student and teacher happiness and satisfaction? That's what diversity can accomplish.

            Take, for example, the Somali-language bilingual charter in Minneapolis. I don't know if it produces better test scores than those same students scattered throughout the regular public schools. But I'm pretty sure those kids are happier there, and come out more prepared to face American life. And I'm pretty sure the teachers there are happier than they would be doing token ESL at a mainstream school, watching kids neglected from lack of resources. So yes, it's a "BETTER" school.

            I don't know if my kids scored better on standardized tests because of their charter experience. Probably not. But I can safely say they were much happier and more committed students, and graduated better prepared for the future.

            But charters need to be chosen carefully. They also spent a year at another charter shool beforehand, and it was an awful experience for both of them. And I won't say it was a bad school - I think it's a very good school, actually. It just wasn't well suited for my children and their needs.

            There is no one-size-fits-all idealized educational model, and forcing one on an entire district does injustice to both students and teachers. Think about that.

            Obama is our Reagan.
            Romney is their Mondale.

            by Orbital Mind Control Lasers on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:47:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  A couple responses: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jbob, Larsstephens

      1) "Nonprofit" doesn't mean nobody is making money off it. Often those "nonprofit" charter management organizations have very highly paid executives, and dodgy arrangements around rent and supplies being contracted to companies controlled by the same people who control the charter management organization are not uncommon. I'm not saying that's happening here, but as a general point, it's an important context for cries of "nonprofit." What we do know about this particular school is that, Ravitch (first link in the post) found,

      In a half-minute of Googling, I discovered that the Minneapolis School of Science is part of the chain called Concept Schools, which is affiliated with the Gulen charter chain. The Gulen schools are part of the nation’s largest charter chain.
      2) Yes, charters are often specialized. There's a world in which that would be a good idea, but it's not this world in which these specialized schools that leave out whoever they want to leave out are being used to replace public schools that serve all students.

      3) Oh, please. Read here and here (those links are to events at a Concept school) and here for union-busting. I got that in about 20 seconds of googling. And there are in fact a number of charter schools where the teachers have organized.

      4) Charters can't "select" students, says you, yet this one is displacing a lot of special needs kids. And it's possible that, that aside, Minnesota is different and better, but we know that many charters in many states select out, through one means or another, disabled kids or kids who are learning English or the poorest kids. In other words, the kids who would take extra resources.

      The thing is, there are always anecdotes about great charter schools. There are some amazing charter schools out there. But on the whole there's no evidence that charters are better than traditional public schools, and while the idea of trying things out and innovating is an appealing one, the fact is that in practice charter schools are being used to weaken the concept of public education being equally available to all children, and they are bringing the profit motive increasingly into public education.

  •  Great to see that link to tcdailyplanet (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I discovered them about a year ago. Online Minneapolis nonprofite zine with news, analysis, reviews, etc, with a mission of helping to bridge the digital divide.

    That along with Minnpost help keep me sane around here. The local "professional" media sure as heck don't...

  •  Should a school of science teach chemistry? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Orbital Mind Control Lasers

    Do you think an autistic child or Down's child should handle sulphuric acid?

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