Charter Schools Grow Amid Questions
By Seth Sandronsky
Traditional public school students and their teachers are facing a
shortfall of tax support across the US. But things are brighter for
tuition-free public charter schools, which operate with a contract
(charter) from a public entity.
There were over 2 million students enrolled in about 5,600 public
charter schools around the US in 2011, according to the National
Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a Washington, DC-based,
non-profit advocacy group. A recent NAPCS statement said that total
student enrollment represents a 13% increase in one year.
According to the federal Department of Education, 4% of US public
school students, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, attend public
charter schools. In 2010, California led the nation in public charter
schools with 983, according to the NAPCS, serving over 412,000
students (7% of the over-all enrollment of 6 million pupils
Asked why California has the most public charter schools, NAPCS
spokesperson Sephanie Grisham noted the state’s 1992 law establishing
public charter schools with 31 in 1993, biggest state populace
nationwide and a “great” California Charter Schools Association (a
private firm). “CCSA actively advocates for the promotion and access
of public charter schools, academic achievement, and increased
accountability,” according to its website (calcharters.org).
Kathy Carroll, an attorney for the California Commission on Teacher
Credentialing from October 2006 to November 2010, is a whistleblower
who claims that her employer fired her for speaking out on misconduct
such as violations of statutory mandates (providing for fair and
Carroll also has a critical view of public charter schools, education
policy and policy-makers. She has appealed her firing to the
California state personnel board and expects a decision in June.
For her, officials who serve the public interest and a private
enterprise at the same time create a situation that fosters the
potential for financial and political conflicts of interest.
In her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System:
How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, education scholar
Diane Ravitch unravels the sometimes hazy role of private money in
public education policy, and follows a trail that brings her to “The
Billionaire Boys’ Club.”
This club includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the
Walton Family Foundation (Wal-Mart Inc.).
Both foundations fund the CCSA and the NAPCS.
In Sacramento, funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in
2003 helped the non-profit St. Hope Foundation under current city
mayor Kevin Johnson, a Democrat and past NBA all-star guard for the
Phoenix Suns, to obtain a charter permission to operate the formerly
public Sacramento High School.
The Gates Foundation is also a donor to Capitol Impact, LLC, a
“Sacramento-based consulting firm dedicated to improving policy and
practice in California, with a particular emphasis on public
education,” according to its website (capitolimpact.org).
Asked what what’s next for the US public charter schools movement in
2012, Grisham said the NAPCS will work to change the law in states
where there are no or weak public school charter laws to continue the
Seth Sandronsky lives and writes in Sacramento. Published with permission, From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2012
Manchaca TX 78652