Is the Charter Movement Imploding? (by Diane Ravitch)

Using Connecticut as an example and featuring a recent Hartford Courant column written by Colin McEnroe, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, has entitled her latest blog Is the Charter Movement Imploding?

Ravitch writes,

In state after state, charter schools are proving that it is downright risky to turn public money over to deregulated corporations and unqualified individuals to run schools. The Detroit Free Press series on the scams, frauds, and corruption in many Michigan charters was an eye-opener for all those who are not part of the charter movement. The exposé of similar frauds in Florida by the League of Women Voters in Florida was enlightening to anyone other than free market ideologues. The same level of corruption–actually, even worse–exists in Ohio’s charter sector, where a small number of charter founders have become multi-millionaires, run low-performing schools, and are never held accountable.

One of the most colorful charter scandals occurred when a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said ““his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money….”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

Last week, one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was at the center of the latest scandal. Its CEO was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Colin McEnroe wrote in the Hartford Courant’s blog that hustlers were cashing in on the charter school craze. Not just in Connecticut, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, on and on.

McEnroe wrote:

“The message is always the same: The essential concept behind the charter school movement is that, freed from the three Rs — restraints, rules and regulations — these schools could innovate and get the kinds of results that calcified, logy public schools could only dream about. And they do … sometimes.

“But handing out uncountable millions to operators who would be given a free hand was also like putting a big sign out by the highway that says “Welcome Charlatans, Grifters, Credential-Fakers, Cherry-Pickers, Stat-Jukers, Cult of Personality Freaks and People Who Have No Business Running a Dairy Queen, Much Less a School.” And they’ve all showed up. This is the Promised Land: lots of cash and a mission statement that implicitly rejects the notion of oversight…..

“What else goes with those big bubbling pots of money? A new layer of lobbyists and donation-bundlers. The Free Press documented the way a lawmaker who dared to make a peep of protest against charter schools getting whatever they want suddenly found himself in a race against a challenger heavily funded by the Great Lakes Education Project, the “powerhouse lobby” of the Michigan charter movement. Jon Lender of The Courant recently showed how one family of charter school advocates had crammed $90,000 into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers.”

If there were more investigations, more charter scandals would be disclosed.

When will public officials call a halt to the scams, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption?

There is one defensible role for charter schools and that is to do what public schools can’t do. There is no reason to create a dual school system, with one free to choose its students and to cherry pick the best students, while the other must take all students. There is no reason to give charters to non-educators. There is no reason to allow charter operators to pocket taxpayer dollars for their own enrichment while refusing to be fully accountable for how public money is spent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

You can read Colin McEnroe complete commentary piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80715880/

Diane Ravtich’s blog is at: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/05/is-the-charter-movement-imploding/

Renaissance Man says – Sign My Petition (sort of)

Say what you will about Colin McEnroe but he is one of those has guys who has earned the mantle of being called a “Renaissance Man,” a term that first appeared in the 17th century to describe a “person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.”

Colin McEnroe’s WNPR radio show can be heard weekdays from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays, he regularly writes columns for the Hartford Courant and his Courant blog can be found at http://courantblogs.com/colin-mcenroe/

In his latest Hartford Courant column, McEnroe instructs his readers to sign my ballot petition so that I can get on the November 2014 ballot should I decide to run for governor.

Okay…

Well…

To be honest, he doesn’t “exactly” say that, but when one is potentially running as third party candidate, you take what you can get when it comes to political endorsements.

Colin McEnroe does write,

Pelto has already snagged one title from his arch-nemesis Gov. Dannel P. Malloy: The Guy Everybody Misunderestimated. Malloy has owned this honor since 2006, and it could be argued that the last eight years of Connecticut history have been one huge non-menstrual retelling of “Carrie” — a fiery redemption after his suffering at the hands of pitiless schoolmates and scornful teachers. You teachers think you’re getting shafted now? You should have been nicer to him when he was 8.

Pelto — in a 50-minute interview this week on WNPR’s “Where We Live” — snatched that championship away from Malloy and reminded us that just because somebody vaguely resembles a plainclothes Christmas elf, that’s no reason to suppose he isn’t smart, bold, shrewd and willing to say things that need saying. The interview was Pelto’s equivalent of a figure skating short program. He landed all of his jumps, spins, spirals and other compulsory figures, and he sounded capable enough that he should be wary of Malloy operatives approaching him with collapsible police batons.

Now he has to collect 7,500 signatures to get on the ballot (really, more like 10,000 because many of the people who sign as Snoop Dogg or Kirsten Dunst turn out not to be). To qualify for even a measly one-third of the public financing grant that Malloy and Republican Tom Foley will get, he would have to collect well over 100,000 signatures — which is way too burdensome but will never be fixed because the only people who could fix it are Democrats and Republicans, who are about as interested in an open political process as Ted Nugent is in stricter gun laws.

And then comes the all-important throwaway line,

Anyway, sign Pelto’s petition.

You can read McEnroe’s complete contribution to the discussion about election 2014 at:  Like Political Entertainment? Sign The Petition

Colin McEnroe’s commentary piece on Pryor getting national coverage

After reading Colin McEnroe’s recent commentary piece entitled,  Parsing The Unintelligible Stefan Pryor, Diane Ravitch, America’s leading public education advocate, cross posts the piece to her blog asking, “When Did Gibberish Replace Conventional English?

The two are MUST READ pieces.

Diane writes:

Colin McEnroe of NPR in Connecticut has discovered the root problem of corporate reformers: They have lost touch with common sense and the meaning of learning. To cover up their ignorance, they have invented rhetoric that sounds impressive but is no more than unintelligible verbiage.

He starts here, and gets better:

“I don’t know about you, but I remember the moment when, as a boy, I fell in love with learning. It was 1964, in the spring. My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Vick, sat down with me in the late afternoon and gently pried from my hands Hardy Boys book No. 42, “The Secret of the Mummy’s Strategically Dynamic New Paradigms.”

“Colin,” she said. “I know you’re a good boy with a bright mind. But your EAPE scores don’t point to project-based learning across the curriculum. You need to scaffold texts to other texts, and to that end I’m going to start interfacing with your developmental space.”

“Miss Vick,” I stammered, “can you disintermediate that for me in a way that unpacks the convergence in assessment-driven terms?”

We talked for hours as the sun sank toward the horizon. I believe both of us wept. My mind opened like a flower. That night, I chopped my Hardy Boys books into little pieces and fed them to the neighbor’s python. I read Emerson’s “The American Scholar” instead.

Wait. Maybe it didn’t happen that way, because in 1964, American education was not drowning in incomprehensible crap.”

Have we lost the ability to say what we mean and mean what we say?

You can read Colin McEnroe’s piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-79199774/