A funny thing happened at a community organizing meeting I attended earlier this week. I was going there to meet with someone who was supposed to help me organize and mobilize an anti-student-data-sharing campaign, although I missed that person I made a few interesting contacts. I also heard a story that made me wonder if many charters are getting a bad rap, and being coerced into abusive relationships by the Louisiana Department of Education.

I have no proof this is happening. I’m simply releasing a story I heard at the meeting. I’ve changed the name of the person who spoke with me. I do not have their contact info (and will not confirm if they are male or female although I have given this person a male name.) I gave them my contact info and encouraged them to contact me or federal authorities, and that they could do both anonymously.

If what they told me is true, Bruce Greenstein will not be the only Jindal agency head appointee going to jail.

Will came in late, later than me, and pulled up a chair next to mine. He didn’t seem to fit in as a parent or community organizer, and he brought a note pad, like myself, and took notes throughout the presentation, occasionally mumbling under his breath. At a stopping point between speakers I introduced myself.

He shook my hand and hesitated. Then said, call me “Will.”

“Just Will,” I asked?

“Yeah.”

I said “ok nice to meet you. . . Will.”

At this point he whispered to me “You know, charter schools don’t get all that MFP money people think they do.” (This was during a presentation on the MFP funding changes brought by John White and approved by BESE for the 2013-2014 schools year)

I gave him a quizzical look and he continued.

“RSD takes a large chunk of it. If you want to do business, you let them. I’ve reviewed the budgets they release. You can’t see the real amount from the budget they release. When you apply they tell you about it, and if you agree you get approved, and if you don’t they turn you down or close you down.”

Will paused. He seemed a little upset. I let him gather himself and then he continued.

“A lot of charters are struggling financially, closing, because RSD is taking so much to pay for all those large salary people he [White?] hires at DOE. They get paid from RSD’s budget. Then DOE blames the charters for fiscal mismanagement. . . We tried to do a charter. . . ” he trailed off.

I told him, “I’m not surprised. I used to work there and left because of all the tricks and dishonesty I saw. They didn’t need a data person when they didn’t want to release real data anymore. “

Will nodded “So you know. They also take federal grant money explicitly earmarked for startup charters and run that through RSD to pay for special contracts and people. They take most of the money from the grants that flow through RSD. . . A lot of charters don’t even know they applied and got the grants and never see a penny. All the money from those federal grants goes to RSD. . . to pay those people. That money is supposed to go 100% to new charters, but none of it does. Meanwhile charters are struggling and closing, but not getting the support, or the money. . . and no one knows.”

While I have no way to ascertain if this story is accurate, (at this time) it would not surprise me if it was. Charter schools are being opposed by many people, including me because of the way they are being rushed through, often unwanted, and poorly monitored. In many cases their only perceived saviors may be departments of education who lobby so hard to bring them in, often over the objections of local community leaders.

This may be a piece of the puzzle I was missing in the great reform scam. This sounds a lot like situations I’ve heard where illegal immigrants are lured by promises of prosperity and citizenship only to end up as sex slaves or abused by employers who pay them less than minimum wage, house them in substandard conditions, and threaten to turn them and their families over to ICE if they object. This type of situation makes charters vulnerable to abuse and depredation. It may also be creating an artificial demand for charters from the perspective of money hungry DOEs. This would explain why Louisiana has so many empty and virtually empty charter schools in EBR and New Orleans and why DOE is pushing for even more; I heard we had a school with 7 students and several with fewer than 30 students. This would explain the great mystery of how LDOE is paying for so many 6 figured salaried folks that don’t seem to do anything, and for all of media consultants like, Diedre Finn, who had a 12,000 dollar a month DOE contract for part time public relations work.

I don’t agree with the unsupervised, willy-nilly expansion of charter schools, but I think charters can have a productive role to play if they are properly monitored, properly governed, and employ certified teachers and approved curricula. However I may feel about how they’ve been allowed to expand (without what I would consider reasonable checks and oversight) I can’t condone enslaving or harvesting them for the federal dollars they can bring in. Unfortunately our state has had experience with similar racketeering operations, such as in the issuing of river boat casino licenses perpetrated by those in the highest positions of power.

Could charter schools be Bobby Jindal’s River Boat casinos?

If you are a charter operator who has experienced the type of treatment I described I urge you to the FBI and report this situation. If you want to contact me first I will work with you to report this situation on your behalf.

Thank You

CCF

milk

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7 thoughts on “Are charter schools being milked by the Louisiana Department of Education?

  1. This is exactly the argument against charter schools. They are allowed to circumvent all the rules and regulations that public schools must adhere to. Research on Reforms has written some excellent articles on this topic including some about how low performing students are frequently counseled out to boost school performance scores. Where do these children wind up? Back at public school, if they are lucky, or worse yet, on the streets. Additionally, charter schools are cash cows for ambitious entrepreneurs as evidenced by the lucrative contracts given out willy nilly. Nope. I can’t say there is a place for charters, Crazy. Not when money is siphoned away from public education and those children left behind in the brave new world of choice are left with the crumbs. It may be Milton Friedman’s wet dream, but for the children and teachers of our state, it is a nightmare that never ends.

  2. Philosophically, I do not agree with the concept of charter schools anymore than I agree with the concept of magnet schools. They both promote segregation of students. The ones left behind have fewer resources and the school, along with the school’s reputation, begins to erode. This, in turn, effects the entire community. In addition, as I mentioned in the earlier post, the charters have virtually no oversight and can pretty much make their own rules (again, Research on Reforms documents this). Charters, vouchers, value-added measure, standardization of the curriculum, data collection, and testing are all part of the same neoliberal package that seeks to privatize education. Charter schools are market-driven. I don’t believe increased competition leads to improvements in education. I don’t believe children are commodities.

    If to want to see a parish that is doing it right, IMHO, look to St. Tammany. There are no magnets and no charters. The schools are truly community schools and very successful. Our state is currently doing everything it can it destroy public education, you better believe it. When a charter school teacher receives a $43,000 bonus while public school teachers are furloughd and their salaries are frozen, we have a problem. I hope the public schools can survive until people wake up and take back their schools.

    1. The teacher that reportedly received the $43000 bonus did not get that much. She didn’t get was reported. I take an ed law class with a few of her coworkers. They report to us how she’s been doing since that came out. According to them, she’s hired a lawyer because of this snafu. People are even going so far to rescore her students’ test to determine just how much her students really increased. A friend works at the high school and he told me how people at school are getting calls from bill collectors and student loan companies asking about the bonus money when the high school wasn’t even included in the grant.

      1. She may be an innocent bystander, but the whole situation was a bad idea and this outcome was probably inevitable because of the harmful environment and ill will being stirred up – intentionally.

        A lot of money flying around and very little oversight.

  3. I think all charter schools are being milked. The last charter school I taught for owed its management company $500000. I asked for what. Our school was stilled housed in trailers, my classroom floor had several patch jobs (a student’s chair actually went through a hole in my floor), there was a leak in the roof in my classroom, brown water was coming down the wall, and my air conditioner couldn’t be turned off or it made a noise like a car that wouldn’t start. We didn’t have adequate resources to support the sped students or those who needed accommodations in reading or math. I found as many free programs or trial programs as I could before they ran out. Last I heard, the school was able to get rid of the management company but they face being taken over by someone else.

    1. Its a racket, to be sure. This whole situation could have been handled so much better for everyone, but what we have now is an unmitigated corrupt disaster. Charters never needed to be anyone’s enemy, or anyone’s prey. They could have worked with the community and existing districts, but the goal of many was chaos and profitting from it, not helping children. I know there are many folks who got into this for all the right reasons, but motives of many involved were never pure or benevolent.

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