Question: When does a supposedly “public” charter-school become a private entity?
Answer: When it opens in North Carolina.
For anyone who believes that public charter schools are actual public schools, there are a plethora of realities that contradict that idealistic view, at least here in the Old North State.
Here, public tax payer money is used to fund the creation of an “alternative” school that caters to a specific population that is not supposedly well serviced in traditional public schools which uses different approaches to instruct students in order to achieve better academic outcomes.
However, they are allowed to run as private businesses without the same oversight. Furthermore, they do not have to use certified teachers. But most importantly, there is no empirical information that shows that charter school in North Carolina perform better than traditional schools even with preferential treatment.
But try telling that to some lawmakers in Raleigh.
Today a bill was advanced that sheds even more light onto the incestuous relationship that private entities have with tax payer money in the name of public welfare.
As reported by Billy Ball on April 24th on NC Policy Watch in an article entitled, “House panel OKs charter school growth bill, corporate “perks” for charter partners (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/04/24/house-panel-oks-charter-school-growth-bill-corporate-perks-charter-partners/#sthash.CiIsfYLY.qgOZXEvz.dpuf),
A divided House Education Committee gave their approval Monday to a pair of controversial charter school bills, one of which will allow charters to expand student enrollment by up to 30 percent with no additional state review of their performance and finances.
The second proposal, House Bill 800, led by Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, would speed “perks” for private charter school partners by providing their children enrollment priority for up to half of the school’s population, a provision that critics likened to making public charters into “de facto, segregated private schools.”
That second bill, HB800, was actually called a “jobs’ bill” by Bradford, who according to his website electbradford.com/meet-john/, is
“the President & Founder of Park Avenue Properties, a Cornelius based residential property management and real estate investment firm with operations in five states and eight cities.”
What many people may not know is that a charter school may already reserve up to fifteen percent of its enrollment for children of teachers, employees, and board members.
That’s right. Charter schools have private board members. Public schools do not.
Now Sen. Bradford wants to help create jobs in a right-to-work state by allowing companies to invest in a publicly funded charter school to “buy” enrollment that can take up another 50 percent of the charter schools enrollment.
Rep. Graig Meyer out of Orange County was quoted as saying this bill “really pushes us down the road to privatization that we resisted on charter schools. This allows you to set up the equivalent of a company store, but it’s a company school” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/#sthash.MoRg9TFe.dpuf).
Meyer is right. Very right.
House Bill 800 is nothing more than a tax payer funded form of segregation that allows for a public charter school to provide only 35% of its space for the general public.
Does it not seem odd that the very political party that Sen. Bradford aligns himself with actually at one time called funding traditional public schools fully and treating certified teachers as professionals was the equivalent of a “jobs’ bill?”
Those older conservatives looked at that as an investment that attracted business and industry to the state and allowed North Carolina to at one time brag of having the strongest public education system in the southeastern United States.
Now, Sen. Bradford’s idea of a “jobs’bill” is another way of segregating our population with tax payer money because if we live in a right-to –work state, any company can control who goes to its newly “bought school.”
In looking at HB800, it is hard not to think of Betsy DeVos’s comments about money and influence when it comes to crafting public policy. She wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call in 1997.
“I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment. People like us must surely be stopped.”
When a public school advocate like myself argues that businesses should invest in schools, I do not mean that they “buy” spaces in schools financed by the public to house a select few students that benefits a chosen few. I would like to think that businesses would invest in schools as a public institution that benefits society as a whole.
But what Sen. Braford is offering is divisive and conflicting and should be thought out much more carefully. He was in favor of and voted for HB2 in the spring of 2016 that costs NC a number of jobs, and to his credit he was one of the few on the GOP side to seek a compromise in repealing it this year even when his own party was against it.
He said in the Charlotte Observer on March 8 of this year (“If there’s a way to get rid of HB2, this Mecklenburg lawmaker could help find it”),
“You can’t underestimate the economic impact it’s had on our state,” (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article137213863.html#storylink=cpy).
But HB800 is not “jobs’ bill.” It’s a “privatization of public schools’ bill.” If Bradford wants to create jobs by ensuring good schools then he should be more willing to fully fund all traditional public schools.
Then he can talk to Chad Barefoot about it.