Category Archives: Charter Schools

Public Funds For Charter Schools Is Socially Irresponsible

Public money comes from the new value workers produce. It does not come from somewhere else. This value is presently controlled not by those who produce it but by the financial oligarchy and its state. When socially-produced wealth is not controlled by those who actually produce it, endless problems arise. There is no way for the economy to benefit all individuals and serve the general interests of society when it is dominated by a handful of billionaires.

Socially-produced wealth belongs to the public and must be used for social programs and public services that benefit the socialized economy and the general interests of society. This includes education, healthcare, municipal services, and more. This can be achieved when major economic decisions are made by a public authority worthy of the name. A government beholden to the rich and their political representatives leads only to more retrogressive developments.

Since public money does not come from, or belong to, narrow private interests, it must not be used for privatized education arrangements such as charter schools. That is socially irresponsible.

Privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools are contract schools run by unelected individuals. They are not state agencies like public schools. They differ significantly from public schools, legally, organizationally, ideologically, and otherwise. Besides being governed by unelected individuals, charter schools cannot levy taxes, frequently hire uncertified teachers, and do not operate according to the same laws, rules, and regulations as public schools. Many courts have ruled that charter schools are not public entities.  In addition, charter schools support fewer high-needs students than public schools and lack the transparency of public schools.  Charter schools intensify segregation and are often plagued by instability and corruption as well. Further, more than 150 charter schools close every year, usually for financial malfeasance, mismanagement, or academic failure. Between 1999 and 2017, more than one-quarter of charter schools closed after operating for only five years.  Such instability has left hundreds of thousands of minority students out in the cold. Many other problems could be listed.

Although they are not public agencies, privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools siphon tens of billions of public dollars every year from the public purse, which leaves public schools worse off. In cities like Rochester and Buffalo, New York, charter schools collectively siphon over $225 million a year from under-funded public schools. And it does not help that the “results” delivered by privately-operated charter schools, especially cyber charter schools, are often unimpressive, if not abysmal.

All of this is inevitable when schools are run on the basis of “free market” ideology. Social responsibility and the “free market” simply do not go together. “Good business sense” and social responsibility negate each other. They are oxymorons, and attempts to blur the distinction between them should be opposed. Corporations pursuing maximum profits as fast as possible—unlimited greed—has nothing to do with serving the general interests of society. Social responsibilities like education must not be subjected to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.” The modern idea that humans are born to society and have rights by virtue of their being is alien to “free market” ideology.

Contrary to what neoliberals and privatizers claim, privatization does not serve the common good or improve “outcomes” for everyone. It just funnels public wealth produced by workers into the hands of narrow private interests, leaving fewer funds for the public and the economy.

The public, not narrow private interests, must have the first and last say over the use of public funds. Wealth produced collectively by workers must not escape their control. Socially-produced wealth must remain in public hands and not find its way to private entities. Publicly funded private entities and so-called public-private “partnerships” distort the socialized economy, increase inequality, diminish the voice of workers, and exacerbate a range of other problems. Around the globe, privatization in its many forms is intensifying problems in many sectors and spheres.

A modern economy and society cannot develop in a healthy, balanced, and self-reliant way when decisions are made mainly by competing owners of capital seeking to maximize profit as fast as possible. Education and all the affairs of society must be determined by working people, not by those who strive to use the new value produced by workers to enrich themselves.

Fight for public funds for public schools. Stand for social responsibility and oppose the flow of all public funds to charter schools. The powerful private companies that run charter schools must not receive any public funds or assets. Society needs a government that takes up its social responsibility to meet the broad educational needs of a modern society based on mass industrial production.

Charter schools are legal in 45 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Currently, about 3.3 million youth attend roughly 7,400 charter schools across the nation. This is a small fraction of all students and all schools in the United States.

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New York State: 50 Charter Schools Closed in 20 Years

According to New York Charter School Fact Sheet (January 2021) from the New York State Education Department, the number of charter schools issued in New York State since the passage of the state’s charter school law in 1998 is 397. The total number of privately-operated charters permitted statewide under 2015 legislative amendments is 460. It is worth noting that a conversion of an existing public school to a charter school is not counted toward the numerical limits established by Article 56 of Education Law. This amounts to about 10 charter schools.

A separate but related document from the New York State Education Department, New York State Charter Schools (January 2021), claims that 46 privately-operated charter schools closed or never opened in the state. Fifteen of these charter schools closed since 2010.

It is not unreasonable to assume that more investigation and more recent data would reveal that more than 46 charter schools have actually closed in the state over the past 20 years. For example, the Buffalo School Board voted in April 2021 to close two failing charter schools in Buffalo.

Broken Promises: An Analysis of Charter School Closures From 1999 – 2017 provides a more comprehensive picture of the high failure and closure rate of charter schools nationwide. Equally problematic, persistently poor oversight and weak accountability in the charter school sector have kept many failing charter schools open.

The frequent failure and closure of privately-operated charter schools is part of the constant instability in the crisis-prone charter school sector that has left thousands of black and brown families out in the cold.

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Charter Schools: “Choice” Is Not An Argument

Advocates of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools have long ignored serious criticisms of charter schools in a variety of ways. They have always believed, for example, that simply repeating worn-out phrases like “charter schools provide choice” will automatically cause everyone to dismiss the need for any discussion, investigation, and critical thinking about the well-documented negative effects of charter schools on education, society, the economy, and the national interest.

“Choice,” however, is not an argument for the existence or expansion of privately-operated charter schools.

When charter school promoters use the language of “choice,” they want people to:

  1. Not recognize that education is an inalienable human right that must be guaranteed in practice by a public authority worthy of the name.
  2. Believe that “free market” ideology is the best and most pro-social way to organize education in a modern society based on mass industrial production.
  3. Ignore how “choice” leads to greater stratification and segregation in charter schools through their geographic location and selective student enrollment and attrition practices.
  4. Disregard the fact that by “choice” charter school promoters really mean education is a commodity, not a social responsibility, and parents and students are consumers, not humans and citizens, who fend for themselves while shopping for a “good” school that hopefully does not close in under 10 years.
  5. Think that there is no need to analyze how and why public schools have been set up to fail by privatizers so as to justify the rise of deregulated charter schools.
  6. Get used to the disinformation that public schools are automatically bad and charter schools are inherently superior.
  7. Ignore the fact that charter schools usually choose parents and students, not the other way around.
  8. Overlook the fact that “choice” does not guarantee excellence, stability, or equity. Several thousand deregulated charter schools run by unelected individuals have closed in recent decades.
  9. Believe that it does not matter who “delivers” education, but what kind of “results” are produced.
  10. Dismiss the fact that “choice” means taking money away from under-funded public schools that educate thousands of students and that public schools in many instances are even compelled to provide some free services to charter schools.

It is not possible to conceal the fact that deregulated charter schools fail and close regularly, educate far fewer students than public schools, are continually mired in fraud and corruption, are governed by unelected individuals, have high teacher and principal turnover rates, spend a lot of public money on advertising and marketing, dodge public standards for meetings and accountability, and siphon enormous amounts of money from public schools every day. Privately-operated charter schools also have more inexperienced and lower-paid teachers than public schools. In addition, many charter schools offer fewer services and programs than public schools. It is also worth noting that the performance of cyber charter schools is consistently abysmal. This is what “choice” has delivered.

The 50 problems plaguing privately-operated charter schools will not disappear by endlessly repeating “choice is good” and by treating parents and students as consumers and shoppers instead of humans and citizens with rights that must be guaranteed. Turning major human responsibilities like education into a “free market” commodity is not a modern way of educating people in the 21st century. It will not solve any problems. Over the past 30 years, segregated charter schools have only given rise to more problems, including many problems for themselves.

Parents and students do not need more problematic “choices” or choice just for the sake of choice. They need locally-controlled, world-class, fully-funded, non-demonized, free schools completely uninfluenced by narrow private interests. A modern nation and economy can’t be built on an education system based on the ideology of “survival of the fittest.”

To be sure, the rapid multiplication of privately-operated charter schools under President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will go a long way toward nation-wrecking, undermining public education, harming the public interest, and dehumanizing the natural and social environment. It is no surprise that intense controversy and upheaval have characterized the charter school sector since day one and seem to increase every month.

Now is the time to step up defense of public schools and the public interest. The public matters more than ever. The privatization of schools and many other public enterprises through neoliberal state restructuring harms the majority, the economy, society, and the national interest. Privatization increases corruption and inefficiency, while lowering quality, increasing costs, and restricting democracy. The public must not permit neoliberals and privatizers to wreck public schools that have been serving 90% of America’s youth for well over a century. Schemes based on the “free market” and a “fend-for-yourself” ethos will certainly benefit a tiny handful of owners of capital, but they won’t solve deep problems that have worsened due to the actions of major owners of capital desperately hanging on to an obsolete economic system.

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Charter School Disinformation About Families Being the Most Important “Stakeholders”

Since day one, advocates of privately-operated charter schools have tried to convince everyone that segregated charter schools “empower parents” and that parents are not only “stakeholders” but the most important “stakeholders” in education. Everything in education is supposedly all about parents first and foremost. Parents are the end-all and be-all. Education apparently serves no one else or 10 other broad functions. Education exists mainly to serve parents. Everyone and everything else is secondary at best. Oddly enough, while the “parent empowerment” theme is central to charter school disinformation it is actually charter schools that choose parents and students, not the other way around.

Such a narrow notion of parents-first-last-and-always deliberately degrades and debases the historical, cultural, social, political, and economic role, significance, and importance of public education in a modern society based on mass industrial production. The days of petty production, small estates,  small farms, and feudal manors are long gone. Humans today are born to a complex modern society in which all production is highly technical, scientific, advanced, large-scale, and cooperative. Everything is interdependent and impossible without millions of skilled working people. The problem is that this modern mass production system is based on outdated relations of production, that is, it is owned and controlled by competing private owners of capital whose only aim is to maximize profit as fast as possible no matter the damage to the natural and social environment. Such a set-up reinforces old ideas such as consumerism, individualism, competition, and a fend-for-yourself culture. It renders education a commodity and parents become consumers who individually shop for schools the way they shop for a car. If things work out, that’s great, but if they don’t work out, then you are screwed. “Buyer Beware” is the only defense you have against getting ambushed in a “survival-of-the-fittest” society. In such a society, government abdicates its responsibility to people and nothing is guaranteed. Privileges, competition, and opportunities replace rights. Education is never upheld as a right that must be provided a guarantee by government, it is simply a commodity and an opportunity.

Neoliberal “Stakeholder”

The core idea behind the neoliberal notion of a “stakeholder” is that there are no social classes. We supposedly live in a “no-class” society. In this way, the 50 problems that exist in class-divided societies magically disappear. All that exists is isolated, abstract, allegedly equal self-interested calculating consumers with an “equal stake” in capitalism. We are to casually ignore massive and constantly-growing inequality and the fact that only the top 1% have a stake in capitalism and that the majority of humanity urgently needs an alternative to this crisis-prone economic system that leaves millions behind every year. The neoliberal idea of a “stakeholder” is a way to apologize for capitalism and to block any thinking that considers a modern alternative to this obsolete system.

Parents are not stakeholders. Nor are students, teachers, and principals. Women, workers, and senior citizens are not “stakeholders” either. They are human beings and citizens with basic human rights, not consumers, shoppers, or “market citizens” who fend-for-themselves in a chaotic and insecure “dog-eat-dog” world. Parents are members of the polity, just like everyone else, and they necessarily share the same objective interests as students, teachers, principals, and others. Education serves parents, as well as students, teachers, principals, society, the economy, and people who are not parents. The value of education is not based on parenthood. A modern society based on mass industrial production would not be possible without a modern mass public education system that is world-class, fully-funded, and locally-controlled.

The role of education is to pass on the accumulated knowledge of humanity to the next generation so that society can progress. Everyone has a “stake” in education. The same can be said about healthcare, transportation, postal services, food production, municipal services, and more. Everyone needs these services—parents and non-parents. Education must serve everyone in a modern society, not this or that “stakeholder” or “special interest.”

Government must take up its social responsibility to provide the rights of individuals and collectives with a guarantee in practice, not leave everyone to fend for themselves in a society that perpetuates insecurity, poverty, debt, unemployment, and inequality. Everyone should reject all attempts by narrow private interests to impose neoliberal ideas and arrangements on people, institutions,  public enterprises, and different spheres of life. Defend the right to an education that serves all individuals, collectives, and society.

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Charter Schools’ Obsession With Test Scores Deliberately Misses the Point

Putting aside the endless problems with punitive high-stakes standardized tests produced by a handful of large for-profit corporations, charter school advocates have never stopped making a fetish out of students’ scores on these political instruments. Charter school promoters obsess endlessly over racist psychometric tests that have been rejected by many for decades. They appear to be immune to all criticism of these widely-rejected tests. No critical examination of these top-down corporate tests is even attempted. It is as if everyone is expected to automatically embrace them and treat them as being useful, flawless, and meaningful.

What is odd, however, is that thousands of charter schools, which frequently cherry-pick their students, actually perform poorly on such corporate tests, more poorly than many under-funded public schools, and about the same as some under-funded public schools. There is really not much to boast about. The charter school record is not impressive, especially when viewed in its totality. Thirty years after their appearance, segregated charter schools cannot seem to claim victory for much.

It is no surprise that more than 150 privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools close every year due to academic failure (and financial malfeasance). Literally thousands have failed and closed in three decades, leaving many black and brown families out in the cold.

Overall, it remains hard to make a compelling argument for the existence of private business like deregulated charter schools. Why have another “system” of schools that undermines public schools and still fails to deliver? What is the reason for such wasteful redundancy, especially when it undermines the public interest? Competition makes losers out of everyone. If it was indisputable and crystal clear to everyone that deregulated charter schools are the silver bullet that advocates keep stubbornly claiming they are, there would be little or no controversy surrounding these contract schools. But every year the controversy around charter schools only intensifies.

Even if all students in a charter school scored 100 on an unsound corporate test, there is no justification for the existence of privately-operated charter schools. The main criteria for judging whether a school should exist is not whether students pass or fail unsound corporate tests.

The tests and students’ scores are meaningless at many levels—for both charter schools and public schools. They are methodologically, philosophically, and statistically flawed. Focusing on the tests pressures people to ignore the core issue regarding charter schools, which is whether they are public or not in the proper sense of the word. They are not. Charter schools are privatized marketized schools. Once it is recognized, understood, appreciated, internalized, and not forgotten that charter schools are not public schools, then all other issues become moot or secondary. The “publicness/privateness” of segregated charter schools is the key issue. Thus, for example, because they are private businesses, charter schools were able to seize hundreds of millions of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds from the CARES Act. Public schools were not permitted any access to PPP funds because they are not private businesses, they are public entities.

Once it is grasped that segregated non-profit and for-profit charter schools are not public entities then the issue becomes: why are they receiving any public funds, assets, facilities, resources, or authority? What valid claim do private entities have to such things? Public and private cannot be equated, they mean very different things. The public and private spheres have different aims, agendas, and preoccupations. The dictionary even defines public and private as the opposite of each other. Why confound terms that are antonyms?

It is helpful to recall that charter schools are contract schools that are segregated, deunionized, run by unelected officials, have high teacher turnover rates, siphon money from public schools, regularly under-perform, dodge many public laws and standards, frequently over-pay administrators, often cherry-pick their students, and are constantly plagued by endless scandal, fraud, and corruption. Charter schools on average also suspend students at a significantly higher rate than public schools. Who supports any of this?

If charter schools wish to exist, so be it. But like private schools they must not be permitted to have access to any public funds, assets, facilities, resources, or authority. They must fund and support themselves without any reliance on the public sphere. Public funds and resources belong to the public and public schools, not someone else.

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What is a “Strong” Charter School Law?

Every year the billionaire-funded National Alliance for Charter Schools (NAPCS) produces a glossy report ranking state charter school laws. This year’s 72-page report is titled: Measuring up to the model, a ranking of state public charter school laws, twelfth annual edition.

The main goal of the report is to rank state charter school laws in terms of how “strong” or “weak” they are. This is supposed to signal to privatizers and neoliberals which states are most conducive to privatizing public schools and which are the least conducive to privatizing public schools.

When the report refers to a state’s charter school law as being “strong” what it means is that the door is wide open in that state to unfettered privatization of public schools. In other words, a state with a “strong” charter school law enables and empowers privatizers and neoliberals to create more privately-operated segregated charter schools than a state with a “weak” charter school law. States with “strong” charter school laws, for example, have less charter school accountability and fewer laws, rules, and regulations upholding public standards for non-profit and for-profit charter schools. Being able to dodge teacher unions and being exempt from collective bargaining agreements is also considered a feature of a state with “strong” charter school laws. States with “strong” charter school laws also tend to have more “charter school authorizers,” which means that it is easier to start a charter school in that state because if one authorizer rejects a charter school application, the applicant can always “hop” down the road to another charter school authorizer and see if they will authorize the school’s charter, which they usually do. This reveals the arbitrary and chaotic nature of charter school authorizing. Further, in states with “strong” charter school laws segregated charter schools can operate with a large degree of impunity and not be held accountable for a range of widely-reported unethical practices.

“For the sixth year in a row,” Indiana, according to this latest NAPCS report, is number one in the nation because it has the “strongest” charter school laws in the country. This is terrible news for public schools and the public interest but great news for privatizers and neoliberals. What makes Indiana particularly attractive to privatizers and neoliberals is that it allows an infinite number of deregulated charter schools, multiple charter school authorizers, and almost no rules or regulations for charter schools to uphold. Indiana has also taken steps to funnel even more public school funds into the hands of the private interests that own-operate segregated charter schools.

The NAPCS states that Maryland “has the nation’s weakest charter school law, ranking No. 45 (out of 45).” In other words, Maryland is the least attractive state to privatizers and neoliberals because it limits the number of charter school authorizers, upholds some rules and standards, and limits the amount of public funds that can be seized by private owners-operators of segregated charter schools. The report considers Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, and Kansas to be insufficiently friendly to owners of capital as well.

The issue at stake here is not whether charter school laws are “strong” or “weak” but rather: why are privately-operated charter schools permitted to exist in the first place? A related question is: why are private businesses like charter schools allowed to access public funds, assets, and resources? Charter schools are not public entities in the proper sense of the word. They are not state agencies like public schools. They are not political subdivisions of the state. They differ legally from public schools. They are contract schools that represent the outsourcing of public education to the private sector. Why are they legally permitted to siphon billions of public dollars that belong to public schools?

Currently, 45 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam have laws enabling the creation of charter schools. At this time, about 3.2 million students are enrolled in roughly 7,200 deregulated non-profit and for-profit charter schools. Privately-operated charter schools are notorious for consistently enrolling far fewer special needs students, homeless students, and English Language learners than public schools. It should also be noted that every 1-2 days a news report documents fraud, corruption, and arrests in the charter school sector.

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Charter Schools Distort the Modern Socialized Economy

Every year billions of public dollars and assets flow into the hands of private businesses like charter schools, leaving public schools, the economy, the public interest, and the nation worse off. This is due to the fact that competing owners of capital are using deregulated charter schools to atomize the socialized economy for private gain. As pay-the-rich schemes, privately-operated charter schools drain the large-scale socialized economy of a huge amount of social wealth produced by working people and meant for the public interest.

When public funds leave the public sector and end up in the hands of deregulated private entities like non-profit and for-profit charter schools, that means narrow private interests are benefitting at the expense of the public. It means less added-value is used by and benefits the public. It means all public wealth is not reinvested fully and directly back into the public sector. Instead, a large portion of social wealth produced by workers is illegitimately claimed by external private claimants whose aim is to maximize profit as fast as possible.1 This distorts the economy and undermines public schools and the public interest. It is a net loss for society. It is socially irresponsible. Funneling public funds to private interests undermines modern nation-building that relies on a diverse, self-reliant, balanced, and pro-social economy under public control.

It may be asked: Why don’t public funds stay in public hands? Why aren’t public funds used for public enterprises and for public purposes only? Why do public funds have to go through the private circuit and still leave society with poor results? Why are narrow private interests even permitted to access public funds in the first place? Why do so many social programs and public enterprises have a pay-the-rich component to them? What legitimate claim do owners of capital have to wealth produced by workers?

Public and private are antonyms and should not be confounded. Public is the opposite of private. They do not mean the same thing. They should not be casually mixed up and used in intellectually lazy ways. It is problematic to mix them up because it denies the distinct properties of each category. There is a world of difference between the common good and exclusive private interests. What is good for major owners of capital is not good for the general interests of society. The aim of maximizing profit as fast as possible clashes head-on with the aim of serving the common good. These aims cannot be harmonized because one negates the other. Pursuing one comes at the expense of the other. There is no middle-ground or “safe mixing” of the two. Blurring the contrast between public and private is self-serving and invariably results in antisocial consequences. This is why so-called “public-private-partnerships” (PPPs), for example, are really pay-the-rich schemes that undermine the public interest instead of advancing it. There is little that is public about PPPs. The public does not need private “partners” to serve the economy and society; private “partners” are a big drain on both.

Public funds for public schools must not flow into the hands of narrow private interests; this does not solve anything, it just destabilizes education and the economy. Now more than ever public schools need more public funds and greater investments. This is especially true given that at least $600 billion has been cut from public education since the 2008 recession.

Public schools have been educating 90% of America’s youth for more than 150 years and must be fully funded, not continually starved of funds, over-tested, over-controlled, set up to fail, demonized and discredited, and then handed over to narrow private interests as a source of profit in a continually failing economy. Deliberately and persistently starving public schools of funds, over-testing them, demonizing and punishing them, and then letting neoliberals and privatizers privatize them only serves the rich and garbles the economy. It does not improve schools. It leaves the majority worse off.

The “starve-them, test-them, demonize-punish-them, and privatize-them” strategy is straight out of the neoliberal playbook and has been used in dozens of cities across America. It is a deliberate setup for failure. Neoliberals and privatizers are now directly responsible for thousands of failing charter schools and for mandating public school failure. Society is now stuck with two failing education arrangements thanks to neoliberals and privatizers. How is this helpful? Instead of solving anything, neoliberals and privatizers have made a mess of everything and humiliated the personality of society. An August 6, 2020 article from the Washington Post titled “New report finds high closure rates for charter schools over time” reported that:

A comprehensive examination released Thursday of charter school failure rates between 1999 and 2017 found that more than one-quarter of the schools closed after operating for five years, and about half closed after 15 years, displacing a total of more than 867,000 students.

How is this a good thing? In what sense can this chaos and instability be called a success? Is this what students, teachers, parents, the economy, and society need? Is this what charter school promoters mean by “success”? Over the past 30 years more than 3,000 segregated charter schools have closed, usually for financial malfeasance and/or poor academic performance. This is staggering when considering the fact that there are currently fewer than 7,500 privately-operated charter schools in the country. Charter school promoters are consistently silent on these damning and indicting facts.

Wealth is produced by workers who must have first claim to it. Wealth is not created by owners of capital. Owners of capital mainly control the wealth produced by workers. Workers do not control the wealth they themselves produce; they are alienated from the fruits of their labor, which means that the social product cannot be used to serve the general interests of society.

The state must be organized to advance the public interest using the social wealth produced by working people. Instead, the state is increasingly being used to pay the rich using the wealth produced collectively by working people. When the state prioritizes narrow private interests over the public interest in this way the socialized economy, workers, and nation-building suffer. The ability to reproduce the economy on a healthy sustainable basis is undermined. It means socially-produced wealth cannot be used to develop a diverse, self-reliant, and balanced economy that upholds the rights of all and provides a crisis-free life. This puts the future in peril.

The egocentric rich are only interested in expanding their class power and privilege, not the public interest, the socialized economy, or nation-building. Their objective position in the economy makes them blind to anything other than their private unlimited greed. They see the world only from their narrow business-centric perspective. The antisocial consequences that result from their seizure of social wealth for private gain does not concern them. This wrecking of society and the economy is presented as a “natural” and “normal” feature of a dog-eat-dog world that we are all apparently helpless to overcome.

Great strides can be made by blocking neoliberals and privatizers and by advancing a pro-social agenda that recognizes the need for new human-centered relations in society and the economy. Pay-the-rich schemes are socially irresponsible and make life worse for everyone except the rich. Enlarging the private fortunes of owners of capital at the expense of the entire society must be opposed in order to open the path of progress to society and strengthen and balance the socialized economy. There are much better ways to organize people, the economy, and society.

Socially-produced wealth must be plowed back into public schools and public enterprises, not handed over to private interests to do with as they please. If private businesses like segregated charter schools wish to exist and multiply, that is OK, but they must not have access to a single public dime, asset, or resource. Public funds and assets belong to the public and public enterprises. There is nothing public about charter schools.

Owners of capital must not be permitted to cannibalize the state for their narrow private interests. Education is not a commodity or “market opportunity” for “investors,” it is a public good, a social responsibility, and basic right that must be provided with a guarantee in practice.

  1. This is true for both non-profit and for-profit charter schools.
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Arizona Pioneer in Wrecking Public Education through Charter Schools

Recent news articles claim that Arizona is a “leader in innovation” when it comes to private businesses like charter schools. Arizona is said to be amazing because it is ensuring “freedom” for parents to “choose” from an exciting array of charter schools to send their kids to, and this is all thanks to a legal environment that strongly supports deregulated charter schools. This is another way of saying that there is little accountability and oversight of charter schools in Arizona and that charter schools can generally operate with impunity. Charter school promoters call this “a friendly regulatory environment.”

It is worth observing that Arizona’s charter schools, much like charter schools elsewhere, are rife with fraud and corruption. In fact, some of the most egregious forms of corruption come from Arizona. Further, in the recent period privately-operated charter schools in Arizona have seized about $100 million in PPP funds from the CARES Act. These funds are not available to public schools because public schools are not private businesses.

In 2017, the ACLU slammed hundreds of charter schools in Arizona for practicing discriminatory enrollment practices even though charter schools are ostensibly “public” and supposedly “open to all students.”And like other privately-operated charter schools across the country, Arizona’s charter schools spend more on administration than teaching and learning.

In 2019, an Arizona news station reported that, “More than 100 charter schools in Arizona are in danger of closing, due to financial mismanagement, declining enrollment, and mounting debt.”

In 2020, charter school researcher Jeff Bryant had this to say about the high failure and closure rate of privately-operated charter schools:

Parents who live in Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, and Michigan should be especially wary. At the ten-year mark, charter school failure rates in Wisconsin were at 55 percent; in Arizona, 48 percent; in Florida, 42 percent; and in Michigan, 41 percent. Three of those states—Wisconsin, Arizona, and Florida—are joined by Ohio at the top of charter closures at the five-year mark.

The severe harm caused to public schools and the public interest by charter schools and vouchers in Arizona is also laid out in Curtis J. Cardine’s 2018 book titled Carpetbagging America’s Public Schools: The Radical Reconstruction of Public Education. What makes this book about the horrors of “free market” education arrangements interesting is that Cardine used to work in and support charter schools but quickly realized how unethical and corrupt such schools are.

Sadly, the problems with Arizona’s charter schools could fill several pages. So much for replacing “failing” public schools with the silver bullet of deregulated and segregated charter schools. Society is now stuck with two failing education arrangements—both engendered by neoliberals and privatizers.

Promoters of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools have long duped many people by hiding their pay-the-rich schemes behind words like “innovation,” “freedom,” “accountability,” and “choice.” Such language is meant to appeal to those who investigate nothing, casually reject research, and blindly accept what someone else tells them. Such individuals question nothing and “just go along” with everything. It is textbook anticonsciousness which blocks people from recognizing that “innovation,” “choice,” “parental power,” and “accountability” are worn-out code words for more neoliberal wrecking. Treating parents and students as consumers and school shoppers is retrogressive, not progressive.

Charter school promoters have also relentlessly promoted the antisocial narrative that the situation in education is “urgent” and “we must do something” when it comes to “failing” public schools. We simply “must do something!” scream charter school promoters and privatizers. It does not matter what we do, even if it means going from bad to worse, we just “must do something.” “The faster the better.” We shouldn’t even “waste time thinking things through.” “We need something different now!” A great sense of false desperation is cultivated in order to act in the most pragmatic and destructive fashion. All of this violent disinformation is designed to cover up the nefarious role of neoliberals in setting public schools up for failure and then privatizing them by creating charter schools which fail and close every day. None of this benefits the public.

School privatization is not “innovation” or “freedom;” it is a straightforward mechanism for owners of capital to seize public funds through restructured state arrangements. It is state-organized corruption to pay the rich under the banner of high ideals. It is not something else, nor can it be prettified. Charter schools are segregated, governed by unelected individuals, have high teacher turnover rates, over-pay administrators, close frequently, lack transparency, engage in embezzlement, and have nothing to do with improving schools or “serving kids” who have “fallen through the cracks.”

Privatization, whether in the sphere of healthcare, education, transportation, infrastructure, or prisons, leads to more waste, inefficiency, and corruption. It also increases costs and lowers the quality of services while enriching a handful of people. Privatization has nothing to do with improving services and programs needed by the public.

Privatization distorts the economy, increases inequality, and further marginalizes the polity. It puts more power in the hands of narrow private interests. It is a step in the wrong direction and means more suffering and humiliation for the public.

“Authorized Carpetbagging,” to use an apt phrase from Cardine’s book, makes things worse, not better. A more precise rendering of this phrase is state-authorized carpetbagging. Public schools do not need to be looted, demonized, or privatized, they need to be fully-funded and placed under public control worthy of the name. They must be free of the influence of narrow private interests.

About 213,000 Arizona students are enrolled in roughly 550 privately-operated charter schools.

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Cyber Charter Schools: Neoliberals Determined to Commodify More Students

The parasitic seizure of social wealth by the rich has intensified in recent years and promises to increase in 2021. While the stock market soars to artificial new heights, the productive sector of the economy continues to steadily disintegrate, leaving the financial oligarchy with fewer options to maximize profit over time. This in turn is causing the rich to engage in more stock market gambling, private lending, bankruptcies, and restructuring of the state in order to funnel more public funds into private hands (e.g., through more “public-private-partnerships”). As the law of a falling rate of profit invariably intensifies, the nexus between the rich and the state will become more critical to analyze in the months and years ahead. Left unchallenged, state-organized corruption to pay the rich will be strengthened well beyond 2021, leaving society, the economy, and the environment worse off, and making it harder for the New to emerge.

In the sphere of education, given the increased obsession with technology and screen-based instruction, the rich are more aggressively striving to seize public funds, impose user fees, and maximize profits through a dramatic expansion of “virtual learning,” especially through cyber charter schools, which have consistently low graduation rates and are regarded by many as a scam. The rich are extremely eager to commodify as many students as possible, at home and abroad. To be sure, the charter school phenomenon is reducing more and more students, parents, and teachers to fend-for-yourself consumers entangled in commodity logic, which in turn degrades the integrity of human relationships and lowers the level of education. It is bad news for education, society, the economy, and nation-building. Even the staunchest supporters of screen-based instruction admit that the in-person classroom experience is superior to buffered digital learning where one sits for endless hours behind a screen gradually developing a range of health problems. For nearly a year, students, educators, and parents have complained about how counterproductive, restrictive, and inferior screen-based learning is. Many say that it is isolating, alienating, and a far cry from the rich organic human connections that developed naturally and spontaneously before the “COVID Pandemic.”

The rich are energetically using the “COVID Pandemic” as a pretext to maximize profit in many ways. To this end, they have maximized the “fear virus” to pressure and compel parents to send their children to cyber charter schools. The intimate connection between fear and thought paralysis is critical to appreciate here because intense fear can stop reason, logic, and coherence instantly, giving rise to major cognitive distortions, which is dangerous for everyone. Today, the critical thinking faculties of many are overwhelmed by fear and paranoia.1  Many parents naturally want what is safest for their children. That is normal. At the same time, one result will be a rude awakening for many parents who send their children to virtual charter schools. Many will experience firsthand the inferior educational experience provided by poor-performing virtual charter schools frequently mired in scandal.

Pointing to the massive profit potential in “virtual learning,” on December 31, 2020, The Courier carried the following article with the revealing title, “Virtual Schools Market to Receive Overwhelming Hike in Revenues by 2025.” The article highlights the “Global Virtual Schools Market” report and assures major owners of capital that the virtual learning sector “is anticipated to witness significant growth during the forecast period from 2020 to 2025” (emphasis added).

The expansion of “virtual learning” and cyber charter schools is certainly not driven by grass-roots forces or a desire to raise the level of education so as to serve the general interests of society. The report, which costs $3,500, is geared explicitly toward “stakeholders, investors, product managers, and marketing executives.” It stresses that for-profit Education Management Organizations and non-profit Education Management Organizations (EMOs) are the two main types of virtual schools to profit from. EMOs are private organizations that include cyber charter schools and brick-and-mortar charter schools. Both types of charter schools are governed by unelected individuals, plagued by fraud and corruption, and have a long record of failure and closure. Both kinds of charter schools rest on the ideologies of consumerism, individualism and the “free market,” which contradict the basic premises underlying a modern conception of human rights and social responsibility.

Commodity logic saturates every page of the “Global Virtual Schools Market” report which makes it clear that major owners of capital need to go global in their efforts to cash in on kids. A main purpose of the business-centric report is to strategically guide major owners of capital in ways that will allow them to best use kids to maximize profits. Owners of capital will learn how to “channelize their efforts and investments to maximize growth and profitability,” says the report.

The “top players” in the global “virtual learning” market include:

Aurora College, Beijing Changping School, K12 Inc, Florida Virtual School (FLVS), Pansophic Learning, Illinois Virtual School (IVS), Connections Academy, Charter Schools USA, Mosaica Education, Acklam Grange, N High School, Alaska Virtual School, Lincoln Learning Solutions, Inspire Charter Schools, Basehor-Linwood Virtual School, Virtual High School(VHS), Abbotsford Virtual School & Wey Education Schools Trust.

The biggest market remains the U.S.

Many are wondering how the detrimental effects of the lowering of the level of education through “virtual learning” are going to affect the abilities, skills, competencies, and dispositions of future students, not to mention the future of society. Can a modern society based on mass industrial production be built and sustained on the basis of a privatized and commercialized virtual learning system designed to maximize profits as fast as possible for a tiny ruling elite? Can the healthy extended reproduction of society be guaranteed by a generation of screen-based “learners” with little real-life practical in-the-field experience? Major owners of capital are not only unconcerned about this, they are also striving to commercialize everything around and connected to “virtual learning” (e.g., auxiliary services and products). Everything is to be commodified. Everything is to be converted to an exchange-value. The logic of buying and selling is to overwhelm and eliminate a modern theory of human rights and social responsibility.

Many thought that 2020 was perhaps one of the worst years ever for humanity. In many ways it was. The chaos, anarchy, and violence of an outmoded economic and political system revealed itself extra sharply during the “COVID Pandemic.” Unfortunately, 2021 and beyond is likely to make 2020 look like a trivial speed bump along the way to greater tragedies for people worldwide. More mayhem lies ahead and neoliberals and privatizers are not standing passively on the sidelines. They are moving forward rapidly with self-serving schemes in many spheres, including education, which will lead to further destruction in those spheres.

But it does not have to be this way. The human spirit is resilient and an alternative to the retrogressive status quo is both possible and necessary. Neoliberal wrecking does not have to be tolerated. People do not have to stand silently on the sidelines as the rich and their entourage destroy the social and natural environment. Much can be accomplished when the weight, organization, and numbers of people are put behind pro-social struggles. The rich are not invincible and do not have full control of life, history, and humanity. They do not always get their way. Many of their retrogressive agendas and policies have been restricted or blocked successfully by humanity in the past. Their pragmatism, megalomania, and convoluted machinations are actually weaknesses that can be exploited.

Technology can and should play an important role in education and other spheres but only when it is driven by a human-centered aim and outlook, only when it is wielded in the public interest, and only when privileged private interests are deprived of all control of that which concerns the common good. The common good and unlimited greed for private interests have nothing in common. How technology is used and for what end is something that people themselves must decide, without the interference of privileged private interests who seek only to maximize profit with impunity.

  1. According to WebMD, the overall Covid-19 recovery rate is between 97% and 99.75%.
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Charter School Accountability Will Remain Weak in 2021

Segregated charter schools have a high failure rate and are notorious for lacking accountability and oversight. Charter schools are also well-known for being non-transparent even though they are ostensibly “public” schools. This has been the case for nearly 30 years when charter schools first came into being. Over the years, endless reports, articles, and books have documented the chronic lack of accountability in the troubled charter school sector.

Privately-operated charter schools have always over-promised and under-delivered on accountability. This is closely related to why fraud and corruption remain entrenched in the charter school sector. The worn-out assertion that charter schools will deliver “results” and be accountable in exchange for autonomy and independence has always been a pretext to privatize education and fool the gullible. It has nothing to do with improving schools. The closing of several thousand charter schools over the years shows that charter schools are not a worthwhile “innovative experiment” or a “better alternative” to public schools. So much for “results-based accountability in education.”

As “free market” schools charter schools operate according to market accountability, which really means no accountability. Market accountability is a way to dodge public oversight and do as you please. The “free market” mainly delivers chaos, anarchy, and instability and allows many “bad actors” to stay in business. Market accountability also means treating parents and students as consumers, not as humans with a right to education that must be provided with a guarantee in practice. None of this is a modern, responsible, human-centered way of doing things.

The recent appointment of Karega Rausch as the new president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) will not result in any improved accountability for non-profit and for-profit charter schools,1 no matter how much fanfare surrounds his appointment. The former long-time president of NACSA, Greg Richmond, was well aware of the absence of meaningful accountability in the crisis-prone charter school sector. He made many direct and indirect references to this stubborn problem in different statements, press releases, and reports.

Karega has been a long-time promoter of deregulated charter schools and has worked in a range of organizations and settings funded by billionaires that advocate school privatization and the elimination of the public interest. Experience, facts, theory, analysis, and logic show that there is no reason to believe that charter school accountability will improve in 2021, with or without Karega. Without a change in the aim, direction, and outlook of education, society, and the economy things will actually go from bad to worse. Rosy words, grand promises, and repeating the word “innovation” 50 times a day will not change this.

The fact that charter school accountability bills drafted by legislators in many states over the years have usually gone nowhere is a testament to the power of the rich and their representatives to wreck the public sphere and promote school privatization with impunity. The rich are vigorously opposed to anything that hinders profit maximization and use every means at their disposal to restrict public right.

Moving forward, the rich are more determined than ever to privatize more schools as a way to avert the falling rate of profit under capitalism. This will further reduce transparency and accountability.

No one should be fooled by lofty phrases that promise all kinds of things that never materialize. Social consciousness must rise to a level that overcomes disinformation and unleashes the human factor to bring about change that favors the people. Old ideas, words, platitudes, practices, and institutions no longer work; they just contribute to going from bad to worse and leaving people frustrated, overwhelmed, and disempowered. Pressuring and begging politicians to serve the public interest is not going to suddenly start working in 2021. The existing political arrangements stand discredited and cannot provide a path forward. How many times has begging politicians and “leaders” left people feeling humiliated, exhausted, and with no meaningful solutions? Why keep doing the same ineffective thing over and over again? Why not learn from this experience and draw the warranted conclusions?

A new way of thinking and acting is the necessity of the times. This includes relying on and organizing ourselves and speaking up in our own name. It means paying attention to our own organizational, political, and ideological needs instead of relying on others to serve our interests. In this sense, accountability begins at home.

Workers, students, youth, and women must step up resistance to all aspects of the neoliberal antisocial offensive and strengthen action with analysis. They must establish their own reference points and abandon the reference points imposed on them by the rich and their political and media representatives. The retrogressive vision and agenda of the rich must be replaced by a vision and agenda that advances the public interest.

More privatization and marketization of education means less accountability.

  1. Charter school authorizers are entities empowered by law to authorize and approve charter schools. They come in many shapes and forms and vary from state to state.
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