Sunday, January 25, 2015

Milwaukee charter schools not measuring take it statewide????

Here's a great expose by the Shepherd Express showing just how a number of Milwaukee's charter schools really operate, with the answer being "often at a substandard level while costing city taxpayers a whole lot of money." Lisa Kaiser's article mentions that 4 of these 10 charters are operating at such a low level that they could be closed, but only 2 were put on probation by city's Charter School Review Committee (CSRC), and that these schools often do a worse job than the MPS schools they're sold as an improvement over. Here's an example of the type of organization operating these schools, with very little oversight or procedure to take care of bad operators.
When presenting their annual review of the city’s 10 charter schools last week, the CSRC limited the discussion to the schools’ academic performance—even omitting the fact that Concept Schools, the Illinois-based national operator of MMSA, has been raided by the FBI in four states as part of an investigation into possible financial fraud. Concept Schools is run by a Turkish Islamic cleric who lives in the Poconos and the organization brings in Turkish teachers on H-1B visas, which are meant for recruiting hard-to-find workers, primarily in the high-tech sector, and not K-12 teachers, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Jeanette Mitchell, chair of the CSRC, told the Steering and Rules Committee that she wasn’t aware of the FBI raids on Concept Schools, even though it’s been widely reported in the press. An MMSA representative denied that the federal investigation had anything to do with his charter school and said that none of the MMSA teachers are here on a H-1B visa.
But the real concerning part to me is the fact that these taxpayer-funded charter schools are operating in a veil of secrecy that wouldn't be allowed with a regular MPS school, and that the charters' financial mismanagement puts other city governmments at fiscal risk.
Jack Norman, a consultant for Schools and Communities United, argued that the charter advocates were providing an incomplete picture of the program for the council members. The CSRC doesn’t discipline schools that are new to the program, but Norman argued that some of the city’s failing charters have long track records as taxpayer-funded voucher schools that should be taken into consideration. The struggling King’s Academy, for example, began as a voucher school in 1999 and became a city charter school in 2010 and has been operating continuously for 15 years. MMSA can trace its lineage to Wisconsin Career Academy, an MPS charter school that was closed in 2012, as well as Wisconsin College Prep Academy, a voucher school that was shut down in 2013. He accused Lighthouse (which received an "F" from the CSRC) of “charter hopping or shopping” because it had received a charter from MPS and UW-Milwaukee before becoming a city charter....

He also argued that the city’s charter school program affects the city’s financial outlook. The program destabilizes Milwaukee Public Schools by reducing student enrollment. A weakened MPS may not be able to make good on its bond payments and Norman warned that could make the city responsible for MPS’s debt. That’s because MPS is treated as a branch of city government for bonding.

“The city is ultimately on the hook for the $300-plus million in bonds that MPS has put out,” Norman said. “To the degree that MPS is put under greater financial pressures, in effect the city is, because the city is the ultimately responsible for that debt. In effect, the city charter program is helping to contribute to possible instability in the city’s own financial reporting.”
Of course, if you're a suburban GOP trying to mess up the City of Milwaukee's finances, so you can beat it up among your constituents and AM 1130 and 620 as a "mismanaged Dem-run area", that's not such a bad strategy. And it works even better if you make the area have to privatize even more of its schools to your campaign contributors!

As usual, these alternative methods of schooling don't seem to be anything that ends up improving education services in Milwaukee, but does seem to be successful in putting unneeded strain on public services and making it harder for them to succeed. Which is the real goal in right-wing world, which helps explain why they want to make this the rule throughout the state.

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