The Parasites known as Charter Schools

Bruce Baker is a professor at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education at Rutgers.  He is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on school financing.  He has written extensively on the subject, including serving as a lead author of the definitive graduate text book called Financing Education Systems.  He is also the author of a blog called School Finance 101.

A couple of days ago Baker posted a “MUST READ” article on his blog that drives home one of the most important points Wait, What? readers have been learning about over the past year.

Charter schools cream off the students.  They cream off students because they are trying to get the “right students” so that can “produce higher standardized test scores” so they can continue to mislead government, foundations and wealthy donors to give them money.

Then, when their test scores come out, they completely fail to explain that those scores are not a product of the quality of the education these schools provide, but are a direct result of selective, discriminatory enrollment policies they have and their increasingly well-known system of forcing out (often called migrating out) those students that won’t produce the results they want.

While Baker’s latest blog looks at charter schools in multiple states, the Connecticut data he presents makes the strongest case yet for the intentional fraud being perpetrated on Connecticut’s public schools, our students, teachers, state government and taxpayers.

You can read Backer’s full article here (see link), but the key Connecticut findings are as follows;

Using data from the State Department of Education and the NCES Common Core, Baker summed the “total number of public & charter school enrolled children by City (school location in CCD) and the total numbers of free lunch, ELL and special education enrolled children.”

Here is a chart highlighting the data – and once again – the data makes the situation absolutely clear.

We know the greatest predictors of standardized test score performance are poverty, language barriers and special education needs.  We also know that in case after case after case after case, Connecticut’s charter school educate children that are less poor, have far less language barriers and need fewer special education services.


Student Demographics  Charter Schools Vs. The City those schools are in

In fact, Connecticut’s charter schools are particularly brutal on locking out students who are not fluent in English – which are usually the children who come from homes where English is not the primary language.

If Charter schools educate children who are less poor, have fewer language barriers and few special education needs, they will, by default, end up with high standardized test scores.

So what has Governor Malloy, Education Commission Pryor, the Connecticut Board of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly done?

They have given more funds to those that are discriminating while making things worse for the schools that are actually trying to what every child deserves under the Connecticut Constitution – a few, high quality, public education.

As Dr. Bruce Baker puts it, “In a heterogeneous urban schooling environment, the more individual schools or groups of schools engage in behavior that cream skims off children who are less poor, less fewer language barriers, far less likely to have a disability to begin with, and unlikely at all to have a severe disability, the higher the concentration of these children left behind in district schools.(see for example:

Baker goes on to speak the absolute truth when he said, “…with independent charter expansion, districts lose the ability to even try to manage the balance. Sadly, what may initially have been conceived of as a symbiotic relationship between charter and district schools is increasingly becoming parasitic!

In a “competitive marketplace” of schooling within a geographic space, under this incentive structure, the goal is to be that school which most effectively cream skims – without regard for who you are leaving behind for district schools or other charters to serve – while best concealing the cream-skimming – and while ensuring lack of financial transparency for making legitimate resource comparisons.”

Baker calls the impact the “Collateral Damage of the Parasitic Chartering Model” and writes, “In previous posts I showed how the population cream-skimming effect necessarily leads to an increasingly disadvantaged student population left behind in district schools. High need, urban districts that are hosts to increasing shares of cream-skimming charters become increasingly disadvantaged over time in terms of the students they must serve.”

Baker’s post goes into far greater detail.

He uses the data to explain and highlight the problem.

It is an issue Wait, What? readers know well.

And if the policies are left unchanged, it will be the legacy that haunts Governor Malloy and those who support the discriminatory policies that are undermining our schools and destroying our public education system.

Read the full post here:

  • jschmidt2

    It appears that getting some kids a better education is evil in the public school environment. Would charters even exist if public schools were doing their jobs? Do teachers unions object to charters because it is bad for the kids or bad for the union power? Are the parents satisfied with charters? In DC they were. If the best kids are taken from the public non charter schools, doesn’t that leave more time and resources for the teachers to help the students left in the public schools? I haven’t heard of teacher numbers going down in non charter schools? If the Charter school students were left in the public schools, would their education be better, or worse? This furor reminds me of the Talented and Gifted programs in my region. They didn’t have enough money to provide TAG to many students. Had these kids been left in the regular classes, they would have been lost to the mediocrity of a class. A TAG type student is not allowed to read ahead or do more math than the rest of the class, thereby insuring their efforts to learn are not rewarded. They must march along at the slow pace of the class. It seems the objection is that Charter students have opportunities to learn more because of a more homogeneous class of their peers. But shouldn’t education be for the children? Is the goal to make everyone mediocre or is it to give them the best education available? Should we hold back a student because he can learn more and faster than another in the effort to be fair, the fairness our President seems to be focused on? All that seems to make is everyone mediocre. Lot’s of question here and I certainly don’t have all the answers, and neither does anyone else. Full disclosure: I am an engineer (BEE) with MBA, Catholic school educated in NY (1st to 12) with, 3 children successfully through the minefields of pubic schools in CT and all with private school college degrees and lot of help from my wife and I.

    • jonpelto

      And here I thought you as the conservative would support me on this one…

      Public dollars being syphoned off to pay for a certain subset of kids – with the goal of not producing an elite group of leaders but to produce a better set of test scores. There is no evidence these students do “better” because they are in charter schools, they do better because they have a set of skills and less of the barriers.

      In our society there is absolutely nothing wrong with private schools – many people with money go to private schools, private schools also raise money to pay for less fortunate students. Many of the students who go to private schools are no smarter, but parents have decided it is worth buying the name – like wearing prada shoes instead of shoes from JC Penny. All the more power to them.

      But these are public schools, paid for by the public, to provide a foundation of knowledge and skills – if they aren’t doing that – then let’s make them…

      But pulling out certain kids who will score better regardless and “leaving” the fast majority behind, with the problems and challenges and less resources means more cost to society in the longer run – costs paid for by tax dollars.

      If anything, conservatives would want to higher performing students to stay in the public schools to serve as change agents and not skim them out leaving everyone behind.

      If a child with a successful education makes money and pays taxes and the other end of the spectrum is a person who doesn’t make money, doesn’t pay taxes and costs society.

      Would you say – if the private sector wants to skim – that is a free market society – but in public sector – no skimming allowed – devote resources to promote broader based change and seek ways to ensure that higher performing kids get extra supports so they can then go on to college or take more advanced courses.

      • jschmidt2

        My kids are too precious to be considered change agents. They have been experimented on before with touch math, a method used for learning challenged children that some bright bulb thought should be expanded to the general population. It completely destroyed my oldest son’s ability to do math in his head. From then on I was skeptical of experimentation or new unproven idea’s. My oldest had a 2nd grade teacher that told us not everyone should go to college. He successfully graduated from GWU. I am for whatever is successful in teaching.If the charter schools are doing a good job, and I think they are, than more power to them. However if the charters are only showing improved test scores and not better results such as higher degree of college entrances, which is a better score, then they are wasting money. The key is for public schools to compete in a fair environment. If the environment of competition is not fair, than that is a problem. What makes me question CTs application of charter schools is the entrance of politicians, lobbying groups and independent firms into the discussion. They appear to get something out of this cozy relationship and that isn’t good for any school. Children should be taught to their ability to learn. There is always enough money for the challenged but the gifted can just sit in a class and become mediocre. Of course a lot of that teaching down is a result of the administrative functions of teachers, such as the emphasis on test scores, and paperwork. Teachers should be allowed to teach. The only thing I can say good about No Child Left Behind is it finally brought some focus to the quality of public education, which had been steered up until then by the unions. Public education has failed the children and without strong public education, you;ll never have a quality workforce. For 40 years the unions have been saying we need more money, and the results have been worse. Thanks for the discussion and keep up the investigation.

        • Linda174

          It isn’t that simple….merely a bad union issue. See here from the Ravitch blog:

          Stephanie B. Simon, investigative reporter for Reuters, has written a stunning exposé of the many ways that charter exclude kids who might drag down their test scores.

          Getting admitted to a charter school, she writes, can be a “grueling experience.”

          Examples: “Students may be asked to submit a 15-page typed research paper, an original short story, or a handwritten essay on the historical figure they would most like to meet. There are interviews. Exams. And pages of questions for parents to answer, including: How do you intend to help this school if we admit your son or daughter?”

          And this:

          “Thousands of charter schools don’t provide subsidized lunches, putting them out of reach for families in poverty. Hundreds mandate that parents spend hours doing “volunteer” work for the school or risk losing their child’s seat. In one extreme example the Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove, Illinois, mandates that each student’s family invest in the company that built the school – a practice the state said it would investigate after inquiries from Reuters.”

          And there is much more. Read it. Then ask, are these public schools or private schools subsidized with public money?

        • Linda174
        • jschmidt2

          I’ll check it out. But increasing parent involvement is a key to student success. The Charters appear to have learned that an can use acceptance to “strong arm” parents into volunteering. The other public schools haven’t learned that. During my kids experience in elementary school, room mothers were tripping over themselves to volunteer. That was in80s- 90s. That has been reduced by the need of 2 income families. I think the discussion of whether Charters are good or bad will continue (stats can be manipulated on both sides), but the involvement of politicians, lobbyists, outside firms are worrying and worthy of continued exploration by the media. They don’t get involved unless there is something in it for them. Thanks

        • Fredda Friend

          In Hartford an artificial push to get parents involved has been around since the mid 90’s by putting the pressure on teachers who were told to get 100% parent involvement in one activity or another. So teachers bribed the students. ” If your mom comes to this activity I will give her a coffee mug filled with goodies and you will receive a new pencil box.” The poor kids who had parents who couldn’t or wouldn’t attend lost out again as they watched their classmates receive a gift the next day at school. What is meant be parent involvement? Can it be forced? Does it mean taking time off from work to attend events? Making sure homework is complete? Being clear and consistent about expectations for behavior in school? Which of these factors have an impact on achievement?

      • Give them all vouchers and let the parents send the kids where they like without the special interests, politicians, and union thugs making decisions for the parents .
        I forgot. Minorities can’t make their own decisions. They are stupid used tools. Or more correctly their kids are. Little profit Centers flush with suburban money for the union thugs.

        • Linda174

          Were you fired for incompetence?

  • PastorG

    the same phenomenon is true of some of our higher rated public school systems. Many years ago I was told that the average IQ in Simsbury High School was 115. certainly explains, at least in part, the fact that Simsbury schools rate relatively high on standardized tests. Im sure the same is true of some of our other higher rated school systems.

    • jschmidt2

      I guess my question would be is that bad? Or do we need in the effort of ‘fairness’ to force a distribution of children all over the state so no one school is brighter than the other? Is that ultimate liberal goal of fairness? It seem Obama would do that with wealth. Of course in the Sidwell Friends school (where Obama sends his children), I’m sure it wouldn’t be enforced. (Sorry for the digression)

      • Linda174

        Very few of the self-appointed reformy (privatizing) types send their kids to public schools or charters and not all are politicians, liberals, progressives or whatever term is being used now.

        The children of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Bloomberg and many others, including hedge fund vultures salivating for the return on their investment, would never attend charters or any of the public schools they are controlling with never ending testing mandates and rigid standards. Their schools have small class sizes, little to no testing, art, music, libraries, creativity and teachers who are free to innovate.

        I suppose for Bill and his buddies it is fun to experiment on other people’s children.

        They don’t understand, and they never will, that teaching is a human experience based upon developing and maintaining relationships. It can’t be reduced to data and devices.

        • jschmidt2

          good comment. very true.

  • brutus2011

    Great reporting job, Jon.

    What is seemingly left out of many of these discussions is the lack of accountability of public school management–not teachers mind you. We need to know where the funds are spent. We only know that not enough funds are reaching the classroom–as incredible as it may seem. The system is far too fiscally opaque and once we truly can follow the money then we will have a good place to start to do what is best for the public good.

    • Correct. Note also the presser by Susan Herbst today applauding a National Report Card for Universities for comparisons sake. The teachers union in CT would not stand for such a concept as a statewide evaluation test without turning into an expensive boondoggle rife with corruption and political compromise. Let’s make the state unions illegal then lets talk reform.

      • Linda174

        We already have that rating system every time the CMT/CAPT scores are released and schools are ranked within their DRG and compared. The SDE releases that data every year and it has nothing to do with the union. We are going on thirteen years of testing, ranking and shaming.

        Where have you been? By the way we already have a boondoggle rife with corruption it is called: race to the trough and no corporation left behind.

        Catch up!

        • Are you the only teacher refusing to be ‘evaluated’ or is it a whole union?

        • Linda174

          Skip the main points of the post, eh?

          No one refuses. We are evaluated every year. The new evaluation process included union input, so please be informed. You look foolish again.

          We are evaluated daily, minute by minute by our children and their parents. Continue to spread your hatred and disdain for the profession. One I suspect you never excelled at yourself.

  • Jim Spellman

    Where is the NAACP , The Hispanic Coalition, Puerto Rican Alliance , Hell even the ACLU on any of what is taking place in Bridgeport, Windham etc. ? You haven proven beyond a doubt that inept protocols and procedures managed by Political Insiders at exorbitant salaries are hurting the children who need help the most. Where other than amoung those who comment here is the outrage ? Malloy and Pryor and crew run amuck unfettered.
    I have noted that there is probably not a political mover and shaker who does noy receive your Postings – do any of them ever comment on what you present ?
    Keep Fighting and God Bless You,
    Jim Spellman

  • Let’s go back to states with school vouchers indexed at 55% of public schools academic costs as in Wisconsin and Indiana. These states pushing choice for private, public and parochial schools are doing so because of abject failure and because of parental demand for more choices. If the parent didn’t use the vouchers there would not be an issue. But they do use the vouchers. Like Lays potato chips they can’t get just one.

    Free markets are good, The parents leave the union schools in droves for alternate education models when offered.

    I too deplore the CT model of Charter Schools and their recent per capita increase per student. OTOH given the strength of the teachers lobby here in CT Dan Malloy had to make bed with some power players I find detestable Not quite as detestable as the monopolistic unions, but nearly so.

    CT Charter Schools are as restrictive on vouchers and choice as the unions are. Its why vouchers are needed. As a check and balances against these two power players.

    Forgetting test comparisons for a minute, there are parents who want skim. They want their kids in positive learning environments and they have no patience for having their kids day upset by ESL students, bad parenting, and bad union politics.

    They don’t get it: Putting their kids in a homogenous group of successful learners in Hartford is evil but sending the same kids to Avon would be a triumph for some special interests. It doesn’t make sense to them why their kids need to ride buses all day when proper choice and school management will give them smaller schools with learning objectives on the front burner and ESL or discipline problems way on the back burner.

  • Apartheid First

    As usual, Jonathan’s incisive reporting/research brings out the trolls and drones who are self-made education experts.
    Public education is part of civic society. While private schools offer or claim to offer training is academic subjects, they are not civic institutions. They are paid servants to the cultural and economic elite. They do not have to offer admittance to anyone (if you can’t pay, forget it).
    In many ways, there is no point comparing such very different institutions.
    The charters are nefarious for pretending to be “public” schools when they are not. The only thing public about them are the tax dollars they swindle school districts out of. When they do their per-pupil expenditure, they don’t “count” the buses, the lunches, and the other “support” that the district is providing them, although this is part of the per-student cost at the every other public school. So they mask the fact that they actualy cost more, while paying teachers less (and having less qualified or non-licensed teachers).
    Charter schools can avoid the disciplinary issues that frequently plague public schools. Charter schools can kick students out, even for fairly minor infringements. The student then goes back to an overburdened public school (bereft of that pupil’s per pupil expenditure, which the charter school pockets), and those schools must deal with the problem.
    The clarion call of “money follows the child” has helped charter schools–well, if the money follows, it should return with the child when he/she is sent back to another school.

  • Patflynn

    nice job done Jon.!

    charter bus baltimore