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?
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.