Education News

Report Examines Business Of Charter Schooling

“In many cases, it’s a very complicated, kind of shell game that’s set up,” said professor Gary Miron, who co-authored the report.

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Texas has about five million children in public schools.

About 4 percent of them attend charter schools, which receive public tax dollars, but are run by independent boards. A new report looks at the business side of those schools and its conclusion is pretty blunt: It found that the policies for charter schools promote privatization and profiteering.

“In many cases, it’s a very complicated, kind of shell game that’s set up,” said Gary Miron, a professor at Western Michigan University. He co-authored the report for the National Education Policy Center.

He said that one way charter operators can benefit is from real estate deals.

“So in effect the tax payers are purchasing that building a few times over. First as a public school, then handing it over for the public charter school, which then gives it to a private company and then the private company leases it back to the public charter school,” Miron said.

He added that charter school operators also often make sweeping contracts with the school board to manage the campus. Those fees can be 10 to 15 percent of the public revenues for the school.

Miron said that it’s very difficult to know how much money charter operators make.

The report recommends more transparency and oversight for charters and also wants the public groups that authorize them to review any large contracts.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools rejected those ideas and the entire report.

“It is troubling that NEPC presents itself as an unbiased research outfit when in fact it is funded by avowed charter school opponents,” the alliance said in a statement. “This report, like others published by NEPC, is riddled with unsubstantiated statements and recommendations disconnected from evidence on student achievement. While we believe that strong and meaningful oversight and accountability of charter public schools is critical to the health of the charter school movement, we do not believe that these recommendations provide any reasonable balance between accountability and the autonomy that has allowed charter public schools to deliver remarkable results for students.”

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Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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