Sooey! Here Pig Pig Pig!
No one minds that healthy call at the hog farm when it’s time to feed the sows.
But taxpayers do take issue with it when it’s the call of the state legislature gathering a different kind of swine around public tax dollars.
Last week, he took executive action to hold these schools accountable and force them to be more transparent – even if the legislature won’t.
Charter schools are publicly financed but privately run. Unlike authentic public schools, charters are often administered by appointed boards. They don’t have to provide the same level of services for children, don’t have to accept all students, can make a profit and don’t even have to be transparent about how they spend their money.
For years fiscal watchdogs have complained that the state’s 22-year-old charter school law needs revising. However, after lining lawmakers pockets with charter school cash, the legislature continually refuses to do anything about it.
A few Democrats have offered plans that would increase accountability, but they’ve gotten no traction. And Republican plans have almost exclusively offered to make matters worse by dumping more money in the trough and putting up a thicker curtain so we don’t see the school privatizers eat.
So finally Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, took action on his own.
He has directed his Department of Education to circumvent the legislature to develop regulations that he says, “will level the playing field for all taxpayer-funded public schools, strengthen the accountability and transparency of charter and cyber charter schools and better serve all students.”
His plan would:
•Allow districts to limit student enrollment in charter schools where students aren’t making academic gains.
•Require charter schools to stop turning away students based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, intellectual deficits, lack of athletics or other student characteristics.
•Make charter schools as transparent as authentic public schools.
•Stop conflicts of interests for charter school board members and operating companies so that they can’t make decisions on behalf of the school that would enrich themselves, their families and/or friends.
•Make charters submit to financial audits to state regulators, make them publicly bid contracts for supplies and services and use fair contracting practices.
•Provide greater oversight of charter school management companies so they can’t profit off of the students enrolled in the schools they’re managing.
•Seek more information about how prospective charters will be run in a new model state application to be used when charters seek to open up shop or renew existing charters.
•Require charters to accurately document their costs.
•Prevent charters from overcharging for services they provide to students.
•Make charters pay to cover the state’s costs for implementing the charter school law.
•Recoup money from charter schools for the time and services the state provides when it reviews applications, distributes payments and provides legal and administrative support to them.
It’s a bold step for a governor, but apparently Wolf is tired of waiting on a dysfunctional legislature to actually legislate.
The problem is Wolf has to be more than a governor. He has to be a goalie.
The state House and state Senate are deeply gerrymandered and controlled by Republicans.
Every year, lawmakers pass mostly crap bills written by Koch Brothers proxies only to be vetoed by Wolf.
Occasionally, the GOP convinces enough right-leaning Democrats to go with them and Wolf can’t or won’t veto the bills.
And that’s pretty much how things work in Harrisburg.
However, this time Wolf wasn’t content to just guard the net. He actually took the puck down the ice, himself, and made a slap shot on the opposing team.
Can he do this? Is he still operating within the law?
Time will tell – though I’d argue that in the absence of legislative action, he is within his job description.
Moreover, this is only a first step.
Wolf, himself, has said that more needs to be done by the legislature. Even after his executive actions, much needs to be done to make charter schools function properly in the Commonwealth.
Specifically, Wolf asked the legislature to pass a moratorium on new cyber charter schools, cap enrollment in low-performing charter schools until they improve, subject charter management companies to the same transparency rules that districts must follow, and create a fair, predictable and equitable charter school funding formula.
I’d like them to go even further.
Frankly, I’d like to see charter schools ended as educational institutions.
Why should the public pay for schools that aren’t locally controlled? Why pay for privatized schools at all?
I suppose if there are some that are functioning well for students, they can be grandfathered in, but they should be funded separately. When two districts have to compete for the same funding, the students lose.
At least, we should not be opening up new charters. The public should not be in the business of funding privatized schools.
I am grateful to Gov. Wolf for finally having the guts to stand up to this powerful industry.
The state exists to further the public good – not enrich private corporations like those running many charter schools.
It’s time we admitted that charter schools are a failed experiment and shut them down.
It’s time to block these pigs from chowing down on public funding without public oversight.
Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!