Sunday, September 13, 2009

Economic Background

Here's a 30 minute GritTV discussion about Goldman Sachs with Mike Lux, Matt Taibbi and Senate Banking Committee former chief economist, Robert Johnson (starts around the 1:00 minute mark). I realize that this is about national politics - but understanding why our economy is in the condition it's in - will help understand why, in "trickle-down" economics, schools are suffering enormous budget crunches.

Be very wary of who you reelect in 2010 to Congress. I personally believe that both parties are infused with greedy, self-serving private investors who are in the position now to not only influence - but make our laws. For instance, the plan that Obama and Arne Duncan have to close 5,000 low-performing schools and reopen them as charters will serve to line the pockets of private corporations that create and manage charter programs. Their plan to begin national testing and curricula will line the pockets of test-makers and textbook publishers. The amount of money at stake for private corporations to reap off of the backs of our public schools -- Billions.


Cerebration said...

One recent example of the money involved in charter schools as a business investment --

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Charter schools, already seeing a surge in students, are getting attention from another group — private investors.

Entertainment Properties Inc., known mostly for sinking its money into movie theaters and wineries, recently bought 22 locations from charter school operator Imagine Schools for about $170 million. The real estate investment trust acts as landlord, while Imagine operates the schools and is using the investment to expand its chain of 74 locations.

"They really are an effective source of long-term financing that we can rely on and enables us to do what we're best at, which is running schools, and do what they're best at, which is long-term real estate ownership," said Barry Sharp, chief financial officer for Arlington, Va.-based Imagine. "It's a good fit."

. . . .

Focusing on large players who know how to operate schools, hire teachers and develop a curriculum, he said, provides the company a more dependable return.

"We're not speculators, we're investors, so I have to invest in property making money for me and my customers today," said Brain, whose trust oversees a $2.6 billion portfolio. "The charter public schools offer lenders/leaseholders a dependable revenue stream backed by a government payer. It's a very desirable equation." . . . .

No Duh said...

But, if children actually become educated in the process and it remains "free" to the families enrolled in the charters it could be a good thing.

I mean, it's not like DCSS central staff isn't making money off the backs of taxpayers left and right. How could charter schools be any more corrupt or self-serving than DCSS?

Cerebration said...

True that! One concern about charters (of many) is that they pick and choose their students - leaving low performers and special education students at the home school - (with effectively no choice - as usual for these kids - unless you take the special ed voucher and put up the rest of the money for private school.)

Also, charters have not been proven to actually increase performance, work their staff very hard and consequently have high turnover. It may not be the magic bullet it seems - and a lot of the money will go to the corporate CEOs of the charter schools.

Molly said...

Charter cannot "pick and choose" students. Charter law prevents them from having any specific entry requirements...unlike our magnet programs or Arabia HS. If a charter has more applicants than spaces available, it must hold a lottery.

Charters may benefit from self-selection; those families that are motivated and informed about educational options are more likely to apply. In some cases, students who apply for charters may, in fact, be better students than those who don't apply, but that isn't because the charters select them. It is because the better students select the charters.

Cerebration said...

Oh - sorry -- so they do admit special education students???

Anonymous said...

PCMS is a Charter School. We also have the largest special education population in the county, with an incredible staff and support system for them.

Molly said...

Yes, charter schools admit special ed. students and must provide accommodations spelled out in an IEP or 504 plan.

Cerebration said...

It's good to hear that you admit special education students! Nationally, it appears that many of the "corporate" run charters are not exactly turning away these students, but are not meeting their needs either.

What kind of charter is Peachtree? What made the community decide to make the school a charter? What are the benefits you are seeing?

FWIW - there's a newly released study, conducted by Stanford University, stating that "On average, charter schools are not performing as well as their traditional public-school peers".

"'We are worried by these results," Margaret Raymond, director of CREDO and lead author of the report, Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States, said at a news conference. "This study shows that we've got a 2-to-1 margin of bad charters to good charters.'"

In response, proponents argue, "The Washington-based Center for Education Reform disputed the findings, saying that they're based on uncorrelated variables, contradictory demographics, and a virtual methodology. The organization said that comparing the test scores of charter-school students to their "virtual" peers in regular public schools—students who match the charter students' demographics, English language proficiency, and participation in special education or subsidized lunch programs—is simplistic and is a fundamental flaw in the research because no two students are the same."

Additionally, The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has released two reports analyzing charter schools. They didn't find much difference in performance either. In their conclusion, the NAEP states, "The nature of the NAEP survey design allows for only a snapshot of America’s charter schools. And, given the considerable variation in student and school characteristics, that picture is not so easily discerned. For example, for students from the same racial/ethnic backgrounds, reading and mathematics performance in charter schools did not differ from that in other public schools. However, this study found lower overall mathematics performance in charter schools than in other public schools. On the other hand, in reading there was no measurable difference between the overall performance of charter school fourth-grade students as a whole and their counterparts in other public schools. This is true even though, on average, charter schools have higher proportions of students from groups that typically perform lower on NAEP than other public schools, such as minority students and students in central cities. Such patterns illustrate how important it is to look beyond simple comparisons of the two school types."

In fact, the U.S. DOE conducted a study also and couldn't find much difference in performance between public and charter school students of similar socio-economic and racial backgrounds.


Do you feel that Peachtree is educating students better now that they are a charter?

Tucker HS has also applied for charter status. Does anyone know the motivation for that or the changes a charter will bring to Tucker?

I would suppose that charters are no different than regular public or private schools - some are good - some - not so good. There just doesn't seem to be a way to change that. I think that's because education has much more to do with parenting, race and income than a good teacher and school can overcome, although the charters seem to be doing the most good with low-income minorities. Perhaps we won't really make big strides in educating some groups until we address all of the other social issues that are pulling them down.

At any rate, Obama and Duncan are planning to infuse the country with upwards of 5,000 charter schools - an experiment that could create radical change in public education in the future.

Molly said...

Cere wrote "Nationally, it appears that many of the "corporate" run charters are not exactly turning away these students, but are not meeting their needs either."

I wouldn't say that our traditional public schools are doing a great job of meeting special ed. students needs either.

As for whether charters do better than traditional public schools, some do, some don't. Those that don't meet standards get shut down. When was the last time DCSS shut down a failing school? Traditional public schools can fail for decades, and very little is done about. Unlike traditional public schools, charters are not allowed to fail year after year.

Cerebration said...

Good point.

themommy said...

Nationally, many charters are shut down (or not renewed) because they struggle unsuccessfully to meet the needs of special ed students. Given that there is a shortage of certified special ed teachers and that charters generally pay less, the schools just have a hard time competing for qualified staff.

Interesting stuff about Imagine. Imagine runs several (3?) schools in Cobb and many parents are unhappy. Several of the schools are looking to sever the ties. From following the schools, it seems like they can't keep principals and maybe teachers.

It is so hard to run a successful start-up charter school -- harder than I think anyone can imagine. What has made it harder for Imagine in Cobb, I think, is that many of the parents were choosing between really lackluster public schools and private, but they picked the charter without any understanding of the kinks of a new school.

Charters are not a magic bullet at all and they, for the most part, only serve children whose parents make some effort to find those schools.

Cerebration said...

Public, private or charter, I just have a very strong opinion that the way to greatly improve children's education is to address their life as a whole. We can't expect poor children with semi-literate, poor parents to do nearly as well in school as middle and upper class children who have much more enriching home lives.

I get flack for this every time I bring it up, but I just think that until we are willing to have breakfast club, after school clubs, intense tutorials and interventions after school and Saturdays - basically properly "raise" a generation - we will not close the achievement gap. Look at what private endeavors like the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs are able to do for children. We need to endorse and support many more programs like these. I've even suggested public summer camp in the mountains. Those kinds of experiences enlarge a child's world more than any summer school, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Son of awcomeonnow weighing in on the charter school discussion.
I was in favor of charter schools until Cerebration mentioned that REITs were getting in on the action.
That's Real Estate Investment Trusts for the acronmym inpaired.
REITs are a tax dodge- the investment pool that buys up ....
shopping centers, theaters, public storage facilities, office parks,
and apartments pays no taxes on the profits they make. REITS also make swell commercial slumlords-
their main concern is what their stock price looks like on the trading board. Little matters like their properties deteriorating is way down on the list of concerns.
Who pays the taxes on profits coming from REITs? The stockholders. They have to pay taxes on the dividends they obtain
from REIT profits.
Anyone reading this that cares about their community please do some research before allowing your pensions, retirements, or stock portfolios to be tied up in REITS -Particularly now that they're interested in obtaining school buildings.

Anonymous said...

Public schools in Georgia apply for charter school status for money. As they are still tied to the district that they are in.

Charter schools in many other locals are free and clear from public schools. They are their own entity and do things their way.

Georgia has some of these charter schools, but many more are just charter in name but having to follow many of their counties' guide lines.

Cerebration said...

I never did hear from anyone regarding the benefits Peachtree MS has found from becoming a charter... same with Chamblee. I'd like to know if they found the benefits are worth the effort.