Grabby McMoneybuckets, owner-operator of a string of charter schools, dreams of the day when he won't have to answer to Slim McWhistle, local school board member. If he could just be free from both the usual state regs and the need to keep his authorizing body happy, life would be sweet. But Grabby should be careful what he wishes for...
The rising tide of charter naughtiness-- everything from stunning
incompetence from shameless criminal activity-- is not an unexpected
consequence. When you leave large piles of money lying around and post
neither watchmen nor guard dogs nor even a grumpy chipmunk to keep an
eye on them, you can expect some folks will take advantage of them. If
you have the time and the stomach, I recommend Charter School Scandals,
a website that provides an encyclopedia of corruption and misbehavior. I
was going to pick some specifics, but there are just too many examples
to choose from. The best news for anti-charter folks is that "charter
school" is becoming synonymous with "banana republic of education." I am
expecting it to turn up as punchline somewhere soon.
No, I think this fully predictable outcome is heralding the unexpected consequence that is just over the horizon.
the word string "investigating charter school" returned 16,500 results.
Sometimes charters are spanked and shut down by the local district that
authorized them. But in some states like NY, that authorizing body
operates on the state level. And in many cases, the misbehavior itself
is state-level in scope and sanction.
closing a charter generally involves an appeal to the state charter
board, and some of the sanctions that have actually been brought to bear
involve state entities like the ethics board. More spectacular spanking
have been administered not by the state, but by the feds, for example
when the USDOJ indicted charter operator Curtis Andrews for fraud. Move
up to the giant Gulen mess and we're looking at FBI involvement in
charter school oversight. Misbehavior keeps leading to court
The charter movement offered us schools
that weren't accountable to the usual rules, but what they've delivered
is a raft of schools that simply hunt down bigger and badder rules to
break. And that has the unexpected side effect of creating a new school
system that operates on the state and federal level.
don't think this was intended as a way to further the federal-control
agenda. But we're sliding slowly toward the day when a whole sector of
US schools are run, not by local school boards, but by federal courts.
Parents are increasingly vocal in their demands that somebody, anybody,
take a look at what charters are doing. Attempts (like Pennsylvania's SB
1085) to free charters from the usual local authorities will actual
result in charters having to play to a tougher house. Instead of
sparring with a Slim, Grabby will
increasingly find himselves answering to Justice McFed.
This new level of oversight may exacerbate our education incest problems, and that cozy
revolving door between privateers and bureaucrats has become bad enough
to merit its own watchdog organization.
More legal problems means more high-government oversight of charters.
Charters could respond to the additional oversight by trying to behave
better, and many of them do. But they could also respond by trying to
get more grease on more palms.
The attempt to free
charters from oversight will get us more federal involvement in schools,
and more corruption in the larger system. Grabby is soon going to be nostalgic for the days when Slim was his biggest problem.