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The Charter School Kleptocracy

DCblogger's picture

Charter schools and the attack on public education

According to U.S. Census data, well over $800 billion is spent on education, public and private, at all levels in the United States each year.20 This makes it roughly the same size as the U.S. trade deficit with China. The private sector wants to get its hands on this money. Along with politicians, it is determined to break the power of the teachers’ unions and to attack one of the last bastions of decently paid American workers. The budget problems resulting from the current recession will provide them cover in doing this.

The Walton Family Foundation of Wal-Mart is the single biggest investor in charter schools in the United States, giving $50 million a year to support them.21 The Waltons specialize in giving money to opponents of public education. “Empowering parents to choose among competing schools,” said John Walton, son of Wal-Mart’s founder, “will catalyze improvement across the entire K–12 education system.”22 According to a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) report, “Some critics argue that it is the beginning of the ‘Wal-Martization’ of education, and a move to for-profit schooling, from which the family could potentially financially benefit. John Walton owned 240,000 shares of Tesseract Group Inc. (formerly known as Education Alternatives Inc.), which is a for-profit company that develops/manages charter and private schools as well as public schools.”23 Wal-Mart is a notorious union-busting firm, famous for keeping its health-care costs down by discouraging unhealthy people from working at its stores, paying extremely low wages with poor benefits, and violating child labor laws. The company has reportedly looted more than $1 billion in economic development subsidies from state and local governments.24 Its so-called philanthropy seems also to be geared to the looting of public treasuries.

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lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

No commenting on WalMart's motives here.

I can provide some info on charter schools. My kids attended a charter school for a couple years. Charter schools are a part of the public school system. They aren't funded like the regular public schools. In our state, the state dept of public instruction funds some of the costs - part of the teachers' salaries and some of the schools supplies. The parents and others setting up the school have to come up with funding for the difference plus the cost of the school building. There are some regulations which charters don't have to follow - others they do. Any public school student can enter a lottery to attend.

The school my kids attended operated out of a few rooms rented from a strip mall. The teachers were not paid as much as regular public school teachers. The reason they chose to teach at the school was the freedom from regulation and paperwork - but some of them had to leave after a year or so because they couldn't afford such low pay.

Due to funding problems, the charter school my kids attended survived only 4 years. The education my kids received was far superior to what they were getting in regular elementary school.

Our charter school - 60% black and hispanic students, was dirty, messy, loud, chaotic, underfunded. Educational result - taught my younger son to read and my older son more English grammar in one year than his peers learned by the time they graduated from high school.

Regular elementary school - nearly 100% white students, clean, organized, highest per pupil spending in the state. Education result - failed to teach reading due to 'whole language' methodology (and rigid adherence to same), cookie-cutter approach to teaching left out all below and above average students resulting in lots of classroom behavior problems and teacher burnout. They also tried to diagnose one of my kids with ADHD and insisted I put him on drugs. (Miraculously, his problems disappeared while attending a school which actually tried to educate him.)

I realize this is purely anecdotal. However, charter schools are not the problem. Our educational system is screwed up. When Walmart is funding charter schools, they are funding part of the public school system - which may not be a bad thing.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Allowing the public school system to be corporately funded* is going to lead to a national nightmare.

Charter schools are to public schools, what privatized accounts are to Social Security.

It is allowing the illusion of options, in an attempt dismantle the public school system that is mandated to teach everyone, whereas charter schools are not so enforced. They are allowed to exclude the "troubled" students, thereby allowing a better result, similiar to the tricks that allowed Bush to claim his Texas miracle, where bad students were forced to drop out to bring up the average. Charter schools are the necessary next step to creating a permanent uneducated underclass, preserving education for those who can afford it, and closing off the ladders to wealth accumulation, but for a priveleged few.

*Private unaccountable corporations use public funds to run charter schools, and they also receive funding from corporate sources, like WalMart.

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

the regular schools didn't want. Sorry, you're wrong on this. Rail against private schools - fine. Our charter had mostly poor, minority students - mainly because we didn't have enough students requesting to go there to even need a lottery. So any child who wanted to attend could attend. For other charter schools in my state, there are more requests for spots than spots available at some schools - so lottery is the only fair way.

Charter schools are just one attempt to reform public education. What's happening to public schools now - teaching to the test, dumbing down of standards, elimination of differentiated education, and dismal working conditions for teachers (including lack of autonomy and authority) - is the problem.

Seems to me that you are against attempting to work within the system to bring about change - which is what parents who set up charter schools are attempting to do. I guess your solution is to just pump money into public schools and mandate that everyone has to send their kids there and just shut up about any problems? You can see from my story that MONEY isn't the problem or the solution. And one size fits all works in factories, not classrooms.

As for Walmart's agenda - you haven't said if there are strings attached to that school funding. Are you claiming that Walmart requires its logo to be plastered all over the school? Or that Walmart can mandate the curriculum? What's the problem with Walmart's philanthropy in this case? There might be one but you haven't stated it. What you have said is that for some reason, you think charter schools as a part of the public school system are a problem. But you haven't presented an argument for why that's true either.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

and your experience was anectodatal.

It's great that your school actually focused on those students, voluntarily. But the problem is, the school isn't mandated to teach those students. And, as you
said, there wasn't enough interest, to create demand, so you can't know that those troubled kids wouldn't be the first to be dropped, if given the chance.

Seems to me that you are against attempting to work within the system to bring about change -

You can't know that from my response, so stop imputing motives to me*. I don't deny the problems of the public schools, but I also don't delude myself into believing that privatizing that system is the best solution. I don't deny that there are a few exceptional charter schools who are doing good work. It doesn't mitigate the danger of allowing the corporate class to determine who is worthy of an education.

Like I said, my problem with charter schools is that they are privately operated and are unaccountable, though they recieve public funds, and some are trying to turn these schools into a profit making enterprise.

And I know by experience to pretty much not trust anything Walmart and the Waltons do, just as I learned not to trust the media. People who refuse to pay for overtime for their employees, sure in the fuck don't care how well that employee's children are doing in school. And even if Walmart in this particular case isn't mandating the curriculum, charter schools are opening the door for that possibility.

*FYI, my daughter attends a Montessori school, that is run within the public school system, which don't teach the tests, don't dumb down standards, and gives plenty of autonomy and authority to the teachers,and still manages to be a public school and is held accountable to the school board. So, yeah I am a huge fan of working within the school system, to change things for the better. It can be done, and maybe your efforts would be better spent there, instead of giving ammunition to those(corporate run school proponents, who share your love of charter schools) who would dismantle opportunity for your children.