A 7-year-old girl named Tiana Parker was recently sent home from Deborah Brown Community School, the charter school she attends in Tulsa, Oklahoma, because of her hair. Tiana has dreadlocks and dress code states that “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable.”

Natural hair is not a fad.

Tell the school’s sponsor, Langston University, that the Deborah Brown Community School must apologize and change their dress code.


Its most deleterious effect: The proliferation of charter schools means underperforming children get left behind.

Profit-seeking in the banking and health care industries has victimized Americans. Now it’s beginning to happen in education, with our children as the products.

There are good reasons – powerful reasons – to stop the privatization efforts before the winner-take-all free market creates a new vehicle for inequality. At the very least we need the good sense to slow it down while we examine the evidence about charters and vouchers.

1. Charter Schools Have Not Improved Education

The recently updated CREDO study at Stanford revealed that while charters have made progress since 2009, their performance is about the same as that of public schools. The differences are, in the words of the National Education Policy Center, “so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial.” Furthermore, the four-year improvement demonstrated by charters may have been due to the closing of schools that underperformed in the earlier study, and also by a variety of means to discourage the attendance of lower-performing students.

Ample evidence exists beyond CREDO to question the effectiveness of charter schools (although they continue to have both supporters and detractors). In Ohio, charters were deemed inferior to traditional schools in all grade/subject combinations. Texas charters had a much lower graduation rate in 2012 than traditional schools. In Louisiana, where Governor Bobby Jindal proudly announced that “we’re doing something about [failing schools],” about two-thirds of charters received a D or an F from the Louisiana State Department of Education in 2013. Furthermore, charters in New Orleans rely heavily on inexperienced teachers, and even its model charter school Sci Academy has experienced a skyrocketing suspension rate, the second highest in the city. More trouble looms for the over-chartered city in a lawsuitfiled by families of disabled students contending that equal educational access has not been provided for their children.

2. The Profit Motive Perverts the Goals of Education

Forbes notes: “The charter school movement began as a grassroots attempt to improve public education. It’s quickly becoming a backdoor for corporate profit.” A McKinsey report estimates that education can be a $1.1 trillion business in the United States. Meanwhile, state educational funding continues to be cut, and budget imbalances are worsened by the transfer of public tax money to charter schools.

Education funding continues to be cut largely because corporations aren’t paying their state taxes.

So philanthropists like Bill Gates and Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch and Jeff Bezos and the Walton family, who have little educational experience among them, and who have little accountability to the public, are riding the free-market wave and promoting “education reform” with lots of standardized testing.

—–Just Like the Fast-Food Industry: Profits for CEOs, Low Wages for the Servers

Our nation’s impulsive experiment with privatization is causing our schools to look more like boardrooms than classrooms. Charter administrators make a lot more money than their public school counterparts, and their numbers are rapidly increasing. Teachers, on the other hand, are paid less, and they have fewer years of experience and a higher turnover rate. The patriotic-sounding “Teach for America” charges public school districts $3,000 to $5,000 per instructor per year. Teachers don’t get that money, business owners do.

—–Good Business Strategy: Cut Employees, Use Machines to Teach

The profit motive also leads to shortcuts in the educational methods practiced on our children. Like “virtual” instruction. The video-game-named Rocketship Schools have $15/hour instructors monitoring up to 130 kids at a timeas they work on computers. In Wisconsin, half the students in virtual settings are attending schools that are not meeting performance expectations. Only one out of twelve “cyber schools” met state standards in Pennsylvania. In Los Angelespublic money goes for computers instead of needed infrastructure repair.

K12 Inc., the largest online, for-profit Educational Management Organization in the U.S., is a good example of what theCenter for Media and Democracy calls “America’s Highest Paid Government Workers” — that is, the CEOs of corporations that make billions by taking control of public services. While over 86 percent of K12′s profits came from taxpayers, and while the salaries of K12′s eight executives went from $10 million to over $21 million in one year, only 27.7 percent of K12 Inc. online schools met state standards in 2010-2011, compared to 52 percent of public schools.

It gets worse with the Common Core Standards, an unproven Gates-funded initiative that requires computers many schools don’t have. The Silicon Valley Business Journal reports that “Next year, K-12 schools across the United States will begin implementing Common Core State Standards, an education initiative that will drive schools to adopt technology in the classroom as never before…Apple, Google, Cisco and a swarm of startups are elbowing in to secure market share.” States are being hit with unexpected new costs, partly for curriculum changes, but also for technology upgrades, testing, and assessment.

—–Banker’s Ethics in the Principal’s Office

Finally, the profit motive leads to questionable ethics among school operators, if not outright fraud. After a Los Angeles charter school manager misused funds, the California Charter Schools Association insisted that charter schools areexempt from criminal laws because they are private. The same argument was used in a Chicago case. Charters employ the privatization defense to justify their generous salaries while demanding instructional space as public entities. States around the country are being attracted to the money, as, for example, in Texas and Ohio, where charter-affiliated campaign contributions have led to increased funding and licenses for charter schools.

3. Advanced Profit-Making: Higher Education

At the college level, for-profit schools eagerly clamor for low-income students and military veterans, who conveniently arrive with public money in the form of federal financial aid. For-profit colleges get up to 90 percent of their revenue from U.S. taxpayers. Less incentive remains for these schools after tuition is received, as evidenced by the fact thatmore than half of the students enrolled in for-profit colleges in 2008-9 left without a degree or diploma.

As with K-12 education, the driving need for profit directs our students to computer screens rather than to skilled human communicators. A Columbia University study found that “failure and withdrawal rates were significantly higher for online courses than for face-to-face courses.” The University of Phoenix has a 60 percent dropout rate.

The newest money-maker is the MOOC (Massively Open Online Course). Thanks to such sweeping high-tech strategies, higher ed is increasingly becoming a network of diploma processors, with up to a 90 percent dropout rate, and with the largest business operations losing the most students. For a 2012 bioelectricity class at Duke, for example, 12,725 students enrolled, 3,658 attempted a quiz, and 313 passed. Yet ‘schools’ like edX are charging universities $250,000 per course, then $50,000 for each re-offering of the course, along with a cut of any revenue generated by the course.

4. Lower-Performing Children Left Behind

The greatest perversion of educational principles is the threat to equal opportunity, a mandate that was eloquently expressed by Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1954 Supreme Court decision on Brown vs. the Board of Education: “Education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments…Such an opportunity…is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” But we’re turning away from that important message. The National Education Policy Center notes that “Charter schools…can shape their student enrollment in surprising ways,” through practices that often exclude “students with special needs, those with low test scores, English learners, or students in poverty.”

The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), perhaps the most acclaimed charter organization, says it doesn’t do that. KIPP has its supporters, and it proudly displays the results of an independent study by Mathematica Policy Research, which concluded that “The average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial.”

But funding for the Mathematica study was provided by Atlantic Philanthropies, the same organization that provided $10-25 million in funding to KIPP.

According to a 2011 study by Western Michigan University, KIPP schools enrolled a lower percentage of students with disabilities (5.9%) than their local school districts (12.1%), enrolled a lower percentage of students classified as English Language Learners (11.5%) than their local school districts (19.2%), and experienced substantially higher levels of attrition than their local school districts. For charters in general, the CREDO study found that fewer special education students and fewer English language learners are served than in traditional public schools. And charter schools serve fewer disabled students. According to a Center on Education Policy report, 98 percent of disabled students are educated in public schools, while only 1% are educated in private schools.

In New York City, special-needs students and English-language learners are enrolled at a much lower rate in charter schools than in public schools; and Over the Counter students – those not participating in the choice process – are disproportionately assigned to high schools with higher percentages of low-performing students. Special education students also leave charters at a much higher rate than special education students in traditional New York public schools. In Nashville, low-performing students are leaving KIPP Academy and other charters just in time for their test scoresto be transferred to the public schools. And Milwaukee’s voucher program, which has been praised as a model of privatization success, has had up to a 75 percent attrition rate.

Equal Access to Education?

It’s been 60 years since Chief Justice Warren declared education “a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” Belief in the American Dream means that anyone can move up the ladder. But today only 4 percent of those raised in the bottom quintile make it all the way to the top as adults. Two-thirds of those raised in the bottom of the wealth ladder remain on the bottom two rungs.

Compared to other developed countries, equal education has been a low priority in America, with less spending on poor children than rich ones, and with repeated cutbacks in state funding. But there’s no market-based reform where children are involved. Education can’t be reduced to a lottery, or a testing app, or a business plan. Equal opportunity in education ensures that every child is encouraged and challenged and nurtured from the earliest age, as we expect for our own children.

(article by Paul Bucheit, illustration by Rackjite)

The now-popular idea of offering public education dollars to private entrepreneurs has historical roots in white resistance to school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The desired outcome was few or, better yet, no black students in white schools.

Two years before a federal court set a final desegregation deadline for fall 1959, local newspaper publisher J. Barrye Wall shared white county leaders’ strategy of resistance with Congressman Watkins Abbitt: “We are working [on] a scheme in which we will abandon public schools, sell the buildings to our corporation, reopen as privately operated schools with tuition grants from [Virginia] and P.E. county as the basic financial program,” he wrote. “Those wishing to go to integrated schools can take their tuition grants and operate their own schools. To hell with ‘em.”

Meanwhile, in less blatant attempts to avoid desegregation, states and localities also enacted “freedom of choice” plans that typically allowed white students to transfer out of desegregated schools, but forced black students to clear numerous administrative hurdles and, not infrequently, withstand harassment from teachers and students if they entered formerly all-white schools. When some segregationists began to acknowledge that separate black and white schools were no longer viable legally, they sought other means to eliminate “undesirables.”

Attorney David Mays, who advised high-ranking Virginia politicians on school strategy, reasoned, “Negroes could be let in [to white schools] and then chased out by setting high academic standards they could not maintain, by hazing if necessary, by economic pressures in some cases, etc. This should leave few Negroes in the white schools. The federal courts can easily force Negroes into our white schools, but they can’t possibly administer them and listen to the merits of thousands of bellyaches.”

for those who still somehow defend charter schools, here’s another brilliant reason why they’re not only no good but also oppressive. the same racist shit that happened then is happening now.

NEWARK, NJ. – Holding bullhorns and signs – some with the word “liar” in bold letters above the silhouettes of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and state-appointed Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson – hundreds of middle and high school students walked out of schools and into the streets of this economically struggling city on Thursday, demanding that the city administration reverse course on a plan that could lead to some schools closing or downsizing, teachers being let go and charter schools moving into public buildings.

“They said (the plan) will make Newark schools better,” said Jose Leonard, a 16-year-old at Arts High School.  “They’ve been saying that for 20 years and we haven’t seen anything. It’s like they don’t care about the students.”

The students say they’re fed up with what they see as an intentional defunding of Newark’s traditional public schools in favor of charter schools – which are run by nonprofit organizations or private companies using taxpayer dollars.

Continue reading


In New Orleans, there are no more neighborhood schools. Instead, parents must choose — a charter school, private school, or one of six remaining traditional public schools. This fall, more than 9 in 10 New Orleans students will attend charters.

Parents apply through an open admissions lottery. They request their top choices, and then a computer makes assignments.

The district set aside one day in July for last-minute enrollment. It expected about 300 parents. More than 2,000 showed up in the next few days, and eventually almost 7,000 students would be assigned to new school seats.

The End Of Neighborhood Schools

Photo credit: Edmund D. Fountain for NPR

The report’s authors note that, “where there is little oversight, and lots of public dollars available, there are incentives for ethically challenged charter operators to charge for services that were never provided.” They cite the example of the Cato School of Reason Charter School in California, which, despite its libertarian name, collected millions of tax dollars by registering students who actually attended private schools in the area.

As the fight over charter schools continues across the country, the Big Easy is taking a unique approach — New Orleans will begin the next school year with America’s first all-charter school district.

In September, Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD) will close the last of its public schools that have not been turned into charters, leaving it a 100 percent charter school district.

There are charter schools — which receive public funding but are privately operated — in every major city, but no city has a higher percentage than New Orleans. Eighty-four of the city’s 89 schools operated by the RSD are already chartered, and 40,196 of New Orleans’ 44,614 students are enrolled in a charter school.

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Whitman Wilcox V attended kindergarten through second grade at a neighborhood public school in the Lower Ninth Ward. He had just started the third grade when Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005. His family was forced to evacuate; he wound up at a Catholic school in Houston.

Back in New Orleans the next fall, he switched to a brand-new charter school, KIPP Believe, for fifth through 8th grade; started high school at another charter school, Sci Academy; then was homeschooled for a year.

Now, he’s beginning his senior year of high school. This time at St. Augustine, an all-boys Catholic school famed throughout the region for its marching band.

Five schools in nine years. A generation of children who’ve lived through the storm and recovery have traced educational odysseys like this one.

Q&A: One Student’s Educational Saga In New Orleans

Photo credit: Edmund D. Fountain for NPR

LA Indigenous School May Lose Its Charter Due to Arizona-Style Politics

Years ago, an elder told me that the Indigenous cultures of Abya Yala, CemAnahuac or Pachamama – the ancient cultures of this continent – do not need to be revived, because they never died. Instead, the elder said, it is we who have been severed or disconnected from those cultures.

The culture, the languages, the songs and the stories are all there – rather than revive them, we just need to access them. And equally important, we also need to create and contribute to our own cultures.

I think about that now because of two monumental educational struggles taking place in Arizona and California, both of which have been instrumental in reconnecting our communities to ancestral and living Indigenous knowledges. In both cases, the schools and programs in question continue to be under daily siege. In Tucson, the highly successful Raza Studies program has been dismantled whereas in Los Angeles, the charter for Anahuacalmecac is on the verge of being revoked.

Read more at Truthout

For more information on Anahuacalmecac, visit their website:

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In Philadelphia, education reformers got everything they wanted. Look where the city’s schools are now.

I’ve talked about charter schools before. There are some aspects of charter schools that can theoretically be good, but for the most part, it’s for-profit companies trying to fix a system that isn’t broken. The main reason kids do poorly in these public schools is because the schools are underfunded, not because they’re being mismanaged. There is no silver bullet that fixes a school without any resources.

I’m the proud product of the public school system, K-college graduation. My high school’s dropout rate was less than 1%. Out of 4,000 students, maybe one or two girls had babies every year. In addition to top-notch standardized test scores, we had a rich arts curriculum with a college-level arts studio and three separate theaters. It wasn’t some magical formula that made my school great. It was exceptional levels of funding from real estate taxes.

Fund our public schools properly and stand back and be amazed at how much better they get.

A Louisiana public charter school drew criticism this week for requiring female students "suspected" of being pregnant to take pregnancy tests—and expelling students who tested positive. But a national outcry has led the school to scrap the rule, according to school offiials.

Dehli claims that “just a handful” of female students had been affected by the policy since it was instated in 2006. But when students return to school next week, it will no longer be in effect.

Previously: ThinkProgress: Louisiana School Forces Students to Take Pregnancy Tests, Kicks Out Girls Who Refuse Or Test Positive  

h/t: Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones

This whole strategy of school reform is having devastating results. … Neighborhood schools, especially those in African American and Latino communities, are being closed rapidly and without recourse. … Worthwhile charter schools such as ACE Leadership High School in Albuquerque, which actively recruits drop-outs and struggling students, are likely to fall under the club, because they may not produce the rapid test score gains this burn and churn reform strategy demands.

The charter school lie: Market-based education gambles with our children

I have always been suspicious of charter schools. Here’s why: The idea of giving parents a choice of where their kids go to school is good. The idea of schools coming up with unique ways to attract students is good. But the way we’ve executed it is really, really bad. The main problem here is that people want a “silver bullet” that will fix public education without increasing taxpayer funding for education. That bullet doesn’t exist. The schools that are failing are failing because they are wildly underfunded and understaffed. Closing the school down and starting five new schools with just as little funding and no oversight isn’t going to fix the problem.

We need to fund our public schools better. I went to public schools my entire life, K-college graduation. My parents lived in a wealthy area where the schools spent nearly double per student than the national average amount. I got a world-class education, despite teacher’s unions and tenure and all the other supposed ills of the modern public school system. I had small class sizes. I had special classes for gifted students. I had gym class and music and art and foreign language and I still had time to learn to read and write and do math. And I, along with most of the people I graduated high school with, am a well-educated and productive member of society.

Oh, by the way, I’m from Chicago. Rahm Emanuel closed tons of public schools and replaced them with charter schools. All the schools I went to are still up and running, because - surprise! - the well-funded public schools are doing just fine. In my graduating class of more than 1,000 people, only two didn’t go on to a four-year college.

It wasn’t some magic formula or alternative curriculum or any of the other things charter schools promise. The taxpayers funded our education, and they’re getting a return on their investment. Now, poor students are the victims of these horribly managed charter ventures while rich kids continue to go to their well-funded public schools. Charter schools are increasing the class divide, not closing it.


The more so-called reformers push vouchers and school choice, the worse it works out – for everyone

Rather than directly address what ails struggling public schools, policy leaders increasingly claim that giving parents more choice about where they send their children to school – and letting that parent choice determine the funding of schools – will create a market mechanism that leaves the most competent schools remaining “in business” while incompetent schools eventually close.

It sounds like a decent theory, but in practice it lets America’s youth down worse than you can imagine.   

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We continue to close down public school while building new prisons, what message does this send to kids? We cant continue to dismantle public education on the backs of students of color, particularly black students.

Year after year all of these entities and social services lose funding and get shut down, but look what manages to stay open. It’s NOT a coincidence.

All I Learned in Kindergarten is Not Being Applied in Schools

The question too few people are asking is what’s happening in those highly effective charter schools to make them work so well? Instead of ensuring that those ideas are passed back to traditional schools and to other charters, districts are handing out new charters like candy, creating an atmosphere where pretty much anyone with some semblance of a plan can open a school. Indeed, given that most charters are doing no better than traditional public schools—and are, in some cases, doing worse—we might be wise to hold our applause.

This excerpt of Good Magazine’s article “Is the Charter School Boom Really Good for Kids?” wasn’t disturbing to me because of the lack of accountability for charter schools, but because there’s a lack of sharing knowledge and resources between schools. If teachers are so big on sharing (it’s part of why education is so popular on Tumblr), why aren’t more things shared between schools- charter or public? Would sharing make schools better?