So You Want Evidence of Choice and Charter Problems?

closed charter schools
This is from an auctioneer’s web site announcing a real treasure trove of bargain basement prices for equipment bought at full price by a charter school with state taxpayer’s money.

So, you think that you want to expand “school choice” for parents by passing proposed legislation that would allow charters and private schools to take tax money with little of the financial or quality safeguards that publicly controlled schools now have? 

And you want evidence that it’s bad? Well, the same model laws have been passed in about 40 states, some of them being on the books for about 10 years now.

There is plenty of evidence to how bad things can get with the same legislation models that are being proposed in the Oklahoma legislature right now.

The “few bad apples” argument just doesn’t hold with this much misbehavior in so many different parts of the country. The problem is with the system of unaccountable private charters that have been pushed through too many state legislatures lately.

Each of these cases are in states where the opening for these huge problems started with the exact same arguments that are being forwarded in Oklahoma and other states right now at the beginning of new legislative sessions.

This is how bad it can get.

Outright fraud

From January 23rd, we see a report from The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio about how a significant number of charters schools there have been caught in surprise inspections falsifying their attendance records to capture more tax money that the receive from the State of Ohio.

The State Auditor organized 30 surprise inspections of charter schools that receive state money per student to educate them. In just the first round, 16 of those 30 schools had discrepancies of more than 10% between how many were actually counted in the school that day and what the school was claiming as their enrollment.

The newspaper report relays this from the 56-page report:

The auditor’s report also critiqued some aspects of charter-school laws, arguing they lack segregation of duties and allow for conflicts of interest among charter-school boards, sponsors and management companies paid to run day-to-day operations.

Ohio has approximately 300 charter schools in what has been a wide open, unaccountable system with hardly any of the usual safeguards in place that apply to publicly controlled schools.

This report by The Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education uses hard data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General to detail the fraud and financial abuse that has been discovered nation-wide among a number of assorted charter schools. The culprit is the model law that has been used by conservative legislatures in several states that calls for lax to no oversight of charter and private schools that receive taxpayer funds.


If those reports aren’t quite enough, the Charter School Scandals website has so many links to news reports about charter schools either failing or cheating the public and it’s children, they have to organize them according to authorizers, clusters, CMOs, EMOs, etc.

They also have a list of links to news reports about single charters caught in some sort of scandal so long they had to organize it alphabetically.

Making big bucks off of short-changing poor students

It’s bad enough that poor students have so many disadvantages before they even enter the school on the first day. Now, in cities where the poorest segments of that state’s population live, large, investor-owned charter companies have completely dominated education for the poorest of the children.

New Orleans

The investigative story New Orleans student Social Security numbers found on auctioned-off laptops, from Oct. 2014, reveals some frightening news. And if it happened in any public school, outrage, and demands for investigations would be loud and long.

The Social Security Numbers, Names, and birth dates of 210 students of the Future Is Now private charter company were found on at least two notebooks that were auctioned off when the company closed up shop and went elsewhere. How did anyone find out? Those who bought some of the laptops became concerned of future accusations and notified Louisiana officials soon after the purchase.

Who investigated and then had to clean up the mess and ensure that student’s personal data would not be treated so carelessly in the future? Well, state government officials, of course. You know, those are the same government officials that we want off of our backs so that we can have the freedom to give students a truly quality education.


A long investigation by the Detroit Free Press last year found that Michigan has opened the doors wide to big education corporations, spent billions, with little to show for it except scams that are barely legal. The key story in this series that has charts and links to show is  Michigan spends $1B on charter schools but fails to hold them accountable from June of 2014.

The big corporate charters are concentrated in Detroit where Michigan’s poorest children reside and their parents have the least political power.

A more direct example of the charter school scams that take public money and siphon it off for corporate gain while shaving actual classroom budgets is Weak Michigan charter school laws enable scams, insider dealing.

The graduating class of New Orleans’ Recovery School District have been mostly, and now this year, all charter educated since the third grade. How did they do on this year’s ACT? Louisiana’s pro-charter Superintendent refused to allow the scores to be released. Why?

Here’s why: The scores for the students in the now long-time charterized New Orleans district are not any better than the public schools or worse. Read all about it in Mercedes Schneider’s post where you can look at the secret scores yourself.

Racial segregation

Newark, New Jersey‘s public schools system was declared to be failing and was taken over by the State of New Jersey.

Questions about the inexperienced governor-appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson, rose soon after her appointment and the institution of the “One Newark” plan which made way for big corporate charters to take over most of Newark Public Schools property and receive tax money for education services.

Students, parents, and citizens of Newark are fighting a pitched political battle over local, democratically elected control being taken away from Newark, a predominantly black and poor population.

Several empirical academic studies have been generated that show alarming racial preferences in the ways that students have been assigned to the various charters in Newark.

This one has the most academic credibility and is the most damning: New Report: An Empirical Critique of “One Newark”.  

In case you missed the link to that actual published report with the charts and numbers: An Empirical Critique of “One Newark”.

For overviews of this whole situation, check out retired career reporter Bob Braun’s blog.

An extensive study by UCLA based The Civil Rights Project in 2010 showed that charter schools across the nation were engaged in measurable segregation patterns that meant a reversal of years of integration since the 1953 Brown vs. Board of Education case decision was handed down by the Supreme Court.

The extensive report itself is eye-opening along with an article based on the research by Christopher Bonastia.

We don’t have those problems right now? That’s right…

I have seen several times the argument that “we don’t have those problems with charters here in Oklahoma, so all of that talk about scandals doesn’t apply here.”

That’s right. Right now the few charters that we allow must be sponsored by legitimate educational institutions with long track records. They have to agree to high levels of monitoring. They are structured so that they don’t directly compete with other publicly controlled schools.

But current proposed legislation in Oklahoma and some other states would erase all of the safeguards that are in place.

It is outright sophistry to argue using what we have now while working feverishly to eliminate that very system for one that we know has the potential for fraud and scandal. Those scandals harm children more than anyone just for the private gain of investors in other states.

Evidence that corporate schools do better?

I am waiting still for empirical evidence that shows that taking away public schools and providing corporations with tax money to provide education services results in significant gains for students across entire states where “school choice” and investor charters have taken hold.

Could it be that actual evidence just isn’t there?