Charter Schools were created in the late 1980s as “engines of innovation,” schools in which innovative and unique teaching techniques can be modeled; Albert Shanker, the President of the American Federation of Teachers was a supporter.
As charter laws blossomed across the nation Shanker withdrew his support; instead of “engines of innovation” charter schools were marketed as schools competing with public schools: let the schools with the highest achievement survive. Nobel Prize economist and “free market” advocate Milton Freedman became the philosophical foundation of charter schools.
Today many charter schools have moved in a somewhat different direction; seeking to educate the highest achievers in poor communities. WEB DuBois, a sociologist and founding member of the NAACP advocated the education of the “Talented Tenth,”
“The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the best of this race that they may guide the mass away from the contamination and death of the worst, in their own and other races”
Public schools educate whoever walks through their doors, regardless of economic status, disability and language barriers.
The charter school law requires a lottery to gain admittance and charter schools advertise widely to enlarge the pool and attract “upwardly socially mobile” parents, in other words, the “talented tenth.”
The New York State Charter School law prohibits gifted charter schools and requires charter schools to enroll students with disabilities, English language learners and Title 1 eligible students.
a charter school designed to provide expanded learning opportunities for students at-risk of academic failure or students with disabilities and English language learners; and provided, further, that the charter school shall demonstrate good faith efforts to attract and retain a comparable or greater enrollment of students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who are eligible applicants for the free and reduced price lunch program when compared to the enrollment figures for such students in the school district in which the charter school is located.
If you look at charter school data virtually every charter school enrolls fewer than the “comparable” percentages required in the law. The reason is abundantly clear, students with disabilities and English language learners frequently have lower standardized test scores, impact the charter renewal process and are more costly to educate, i.e., lower class size = more teachers.
The State Education Department (not the law) has established Charter School Frameworks (Read Frameworks here)
Benchmark 1: Proficiency at the elementary/middle school level shall be defined as achieving a performance level of 3 or higher on Grade 3-8 state assessments in ELA, math,
Benchmark 9: The school is meeting or making annual progress toward meeting the enrollment plan outlined in its charter and its enrollment and retention targets for students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who are eligible applicants for the free and reduced priced lunch program; or has demonstrated that it has made extensive good faith efforts to attract, recruit, and retain such students.
At the June 8th Regent Meeting, a six-hour remote meeting half the meeting was debate over the renewal and expansion of grades in charter schools.
A Buffalo charter school requested a re-vote on a grade extension that had been denied at the May meeting, after a clarification the Board was agreeable to grant the extension; however, the school had failed to meet “comparable” percentage of SWD and Ell students over four years, and, was required to file an Corrective Action Plan,
February 2019, the school was required by NYSED to provide a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to increase enrollment of students with disabilities (SWDs) and English language learners (ELLs)/Multilingual learners (MLLs) to meet the proportions enrolled in the district of location. In the spring of 2020, the school was required to address these same enrollment issues. The school is currently implementing the specific strategies outlined in the CAP and provides quarterly progress reports and updates to the NYSED Charter School Office (CSO). The CAP will be closely monitored, and the Department will report to the Regents, as necessary.
Regent Collins, representing the Buffalo region moved to renew the charter for three years, instead of the five allowed by statute. If the school met the conditions in the Corrective Action Plan the charter could be extended to the full five years: apparently a non-controversial and reasonable request.
Chancellor Rosa, Vice –Chancellor Brown and others spoke into opposition to Dr. Collin’s motion!! It was defeated 10-7.
Why would the leaders of the Board turn down a request that will have no negative impact to the school, except, if the school fails to comply with the Corrective Action Plan?
Is Dr. Collins too outspoken at Regents Meetings? Is she being punished? Are charter schools in Buffalo being favored over public schools?
There are currently 19 charter schools in Buffalo with more in the pipeline – 9,000 students and charter funding comes out of the Buffalo School budget.
(9,000 x $12,000 per student = $108,000,000), not a paltry sum, especially in a district that even before the pandemic was fiscally challenged.
Later in the meeting three New York City charter schools were on the agenda, one of the schools wanted to add high school grades; although there is a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools State Ed staff interpreted the law as allowing grade expansion, in my opinion, an attempt to circumvent the law and should have not been allowed by the state.
The math scores in the school were in the “far below standard” category, ninety percent of teachers were “teaching out of their certification area,” the state average is eleven percent and the register in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, was sharply reduced, from 71 (6th grade), to 46 (7th grade) and 29 (8th grade): what happened to the kids? In addition the school SWD and ELL students are far below the district averages.
Why did the NYC Department of Education approve the application? Why did the SED approve the application?
The school has a lobbyist who was a college roommate of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. I’m sure that’s only a coincidence. btw, who paid the lobbyist?
In spite of objections from some Regents members the SED lawyer bundled all three schools together instead of decoupling and voting separately.
Regent Cashin made a motion: a moratorium on approval of new charters and the grade expansion of existing charter schools for the remainder of the COVID emergency. She explained that with sharp cuts in district budgets, with districts facing layoffs and disruptions, to transfer money from public schools budgets to charter school budgets was unconscionable. The SED lawyer ruled her motion was “out of order.”
Any member of the Board can make a motion at any time. The Board should vote on whether to place the motion on the agenda. The Board “owns” the motion, not the lawyer, who is not a Board member.
If the lawyer meant the motion was not “germane” he was still wrong. If he was serving as a parliamentarian he gives advice to the chair, he does not participate in the debate, or make determinate decisions
The action of Regent Brown, who was chairing the committee and the lawyer, simply has a noxious aroma.
I’m disappointed in the actions of the “majority.” Regents Collins and Cashin are passionate supporters of public schools, both have long distinguished careers, in my view they were treated shabbily.
In fact, the New York City Affinity District allows for the same level of flexibility as charter schools, and, schools within the Affinity cluster are far more “innovative” than any charter.
Charter Schools have become an anachronism.
We should “fold” charter schools into autonomous clusters within school districts, that would require a change in the law.
Read more about the Affinity District here.