Arne Duncan today held a press chat to announce that USED would be throwing more money ($157 million) at charter schools.
Throwing money at public schools is, you may recall, anathema to reformsters, who are concerned that while money has been thrown higgledy piggledy at public schools, it appears that insufficient amounts of the money have struck students in the test-taking parts of their brains.
Throwing money at public schools is bad, because we are just certain that they are wasting it and that the taxpayers are not getting a sufficient bang-to-buckage ratio.
But throwing money at charter schools is awesome, because we have no idea where the hell it's going.
The department's inspector general issued a report in 2012 that Lyndsey Layton calls "scathing." The report suggests that the feds have been throwing that money at charters with blindfolds on. The Center for Media and Democracy has a more recent, more scathing report on the vast piles of money that has been thrown into charter black holes. "Gosh," say the feds. "That's a state problem. It's up to them to exercise oversight. Not our problem." Although, just in case you think USED is providing no oversight at all, I am happy to report they did send states a strongly worded letter, exhorting them to be more oversighty.
With all that, you'll be unsurprised to discover that the top winner in the charter change chunking festival is the state of Ohio. Yes, that Ohio. The Ohio where hundreds of charters have failed in just about every way a charter can fail, the Ohio where the husband of the governor's campaign manager had to resign from his ed department job because he was caught cooking the books to make charters look better (including some belonging to some political money throwers, proving that throwing money at politicians can also work well). That Ohio gets another $32.5 million to throw at charters. Even the journalists listening to Duncan's news apparently felt the urge to question that decision, but USED assistant deputy secretary Nadya Dabby responded:
“Ohio has a pretty good mechanism in place to improve overall quality
and oversight,” said Dabby, although she could not provide details. “We
believe Ohio has put practices in place, although there ‘s always room
for them to grow.”
So, they hear that probably stuff happening to lead to considering some things that could maybe get better, they think. I feel better already.
This festival of federal financial largesse will not at all remind you of the administration's position on Title I portability when it came up during the ESEA rewrite discussions. The administration hated this idea a great deal, concerned that it would take, for instance, $7 million out of poor schools in Mississippi. That money can't just go wandering any old place-- the feds want to know exactly where it's being thrown.
Still, if they are concerned about where money might go that could have been spent on public schools, they might try paying attention to where the grants to charter schools are going. If $7 mill of Title I money is enough to get bent out of shape, surely $32.5 million is enough to actually keep tabs on in Ohio with more than wishes and fairy dust. (And that's before we even get to the amount of money that charters suck out of public schools through various money-follows-the-child gymnastics.)
The double standard remains the same. Public schools must account for every penny, including federal bucks that must be spent only as Uncle Sugar demands. Public schools must keep open records always available to the taxpayers. Public schools must even hire employees whose only job is to monitor and report on the money-- all the money. Meanwhile, charter schools just get money thrown at them with no requirement to do anything except, I suppose, have a nice day.