Open Letter to Dave Machado, Charter School Chief for the State of North Carolina Concerning His Words About the Annual Charter Schools Report

Dear Mr. Machado,

As the Director for the State Office of Charter Schools in North Carolina, your words concerning the annual charter schools report just recently made to the State Board of Education prove not just interesting, but rather selective and uninformed and display an attitude to make sure that charter schools in North Carolina thrive at the expense of traditional public schools here in the Old North State.

charter-school-report

A WRAL.com report from January 4, 2017 entitled “NC charter schools chief: Need to increase diversity, open more rural schools” included some rather illuminating insights on your part that not only display a shortsightedness synonymous with an attempt to stretch and spin the truth, but an intention to create more of a market for an unregulated charter school industry that is enabled by the current political structure here in North Carolina.

Kelly Hinchcliffe reported,

“The report found that charters and traditional schools have about the same proportion of students who are American Indian, Asian, black and Pacific Islander. However, charters tend to have more white students and fewer Hispanic students than traditional schools.

The report also found that charter schools tend to serve fewer poor students than traditional schools. But Machado cautioned board members that some of that data may not be accurate. Schools may have under-reported how many low-income students they serve, he explained, because they must rely on parents to report income information.

Not all parents want to share that information.

“Parents would get mad when we sent those surveys out,” Machado said, referencing his time as chief administrator of Lincoln Charter School in Lincoln County (http://www.wral.com/nc-charter-schools-chief-need-to-increase-diversity-open-more-rural-schools/16400623/) .

There is a tad bit of faulty logic there. Are you suggesting that only charter school parents are unwilling to share information about income because of an assumed social stigma concerning socio-economics?

The truth is that all schools must rely on parents to report information for students – medical, past transcripts, addresses, etc. To suggest that traditional public schools do not have to struggle with having accurate measures of low-income versus high income students is ludicrous, because if that was not the case, then you just said that charter schools do a much poorer job of keeping up with records on their students.

Work in any public school and you will start to understand that many students will not report as low-income because they (or their families) do not wish to be identified as poor. And whether people in any office on the county level or on West Jones Street want to admit it, all public schools have students who face poverty, and poverty affects education.

And it is interesting that you mention Lincoln County, home of Rep. Jason Saine and Sen. David Curtis, current members of the North Carolina General Assembly who are sworn to uphold a state constitution to make sure that all children in North Carolina receive a quality public education. Yet, both champion charter school growth in Lincoln County using taxpayer money.

You may refer to the following letters that I penned to them for more information concerning their ventures.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/12/08/open-letter-to-rep-jason-saine-youre-a-state-representative-fight-for-all-public-schools-not-a-new-charter-school/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/28/hes-back-open-letter-to-sen-david-curtis-why-do-you-not-support-public-schools/

Ironically, the very charter schools they are associated with do not show up on the Lincoln County Public Schools website.

lincoln-county

There was another assertion that you offered in the WRAL report which actually opened the story that also piqued my interest.

Hinchcliffe opens the WRAL report with,

“North Carolina charter schools need to have more diversity among their students and open more schools in rural parts of the state,” the state’s charter school chief said Wednesday.

Dave Machado made the comments while presenting the annual charter schools report to the State Board of Education. 

You directly say that you want to open more charter schools in rural areas. I assume that means in counties that may have few traditional public schools to begin with where a charter school may come in and siphon away enough students into another entity that could adversely affect those traditional schools.

Considering how schools are funded by state, local, and federal monies, even a small change in student population in a small rural school could have drastic effects in the ability for that small rural school to apply for funds to have ample resources for those who are not fortunate enough to attend the charter school.

Also, why would you want more charter schools in rural areas when you could invest those monies in the very schools that exist for the students who already attend them? Why benefit a few at the expense of many?

You may claim that you want to offer more choice for students, but how is it really choice for those who would never be able to attend the charter school?

You may claim that you want to offer citizens a chance to attend a successful school in an area where schools have been “failing.” Well, when you can show empirical evidence that charter schools do better than traditional schools overall, then you might have an argument, and even then why wouldn’t those successful ventures then be invested in the traditional public schools anyway for the benefit of all students?

And you talked of the need for diversity.

I do know of a few measures that you could take that would make charter school more diverse, or at least less homogenous, but it would require being measured against traditional public schools again, which seems to something that touches a nerve with you.

  • You could make sure that all charter schools accept students that they may not have wanted in the first place like traditional public schools must – urban, suburban, and rural.
  • You could make sure that all charter schools accept students who have special needs whether they be developmental delays or physical disabilities like traditional public schools (even rural ones) already do.
  • You could make sure that all charter schools keep teaching students with low test scores like traditional schools do.
  • You could make sure that all charter schools accept students who do not speak English as their first language as traditional schools must.

It’s very interesting to see how an idea that was very altruistic in nature as the charter school once was become a championed cause for privatization of public education. Many credit Albert Shanker, the former president of the American Federation of Teachers, with the idea of charter schools, but his idea seems so foreign to the concept that is being advocated so much here in North Carolina and the words that you say.

Shanker wanted (and I paraphrase Dr. Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System pp. 122-124) charter schools should be a decision made with school districts to focus on those students who are the hardest to teach – those who were on the verge of dropping out. He would never have imagined charter schools using the type of admissions processes being used now. And most importantly, because the charter schools would be sort of an offshoot of the public schools, they would naturally be collaborative.

And yes, there are some charter schools that are doing the work of teaching students in newer, more experimental ways in hopes to help other students in traditional schools. And those schools are working with their respective public school systems, but they seem more the exception now than the norm.

Yet, Mr. Machado, what I see your mission being is to create a situation not based on collaboration, but of competition. And if public education was meant to be competitive, then should not both charter schools and traditional schools have to play by the same rules?

Because they certainly are not here in North Carolina.

 

 

Every North Carolina Lawmaker Should Read The Recent Research From Stanford University About Public Investment in Schools. I Hear Stanford’s a Decent School.

Public education is a sacred trust of the citizenry, not an open market for capitalistic ventures. If one wants to make the argument that states like North Carolina are free to allow for competition within its public school system, then that person would need to explain how that complies with the state constitution which explicitly says that all students are entitled to a good quality education funded by the state.

An adequately, fully funded public school system actually is a foundational cornerstone for a democracy in which participants are represented by those elected to defend the very state constitution they are sworn to uphold. In many cases, those representatives were products of the very public schools that are part of the North Carolina public school system.

But many of our lawmakers have mistaken defending public schools with playing partisan politics.

  • The outgoing governor, Pat McCrory, is a graduate of Ragsdale High School but has never challenged any privatization effort on behalf of traditional public schools.
  • The Speaker of the House, Rep. Tim Moore, graduated from Kings Mountain High School and he helped expand the Opportunity Grant voucher system in North Carolina.
  • Gov. Dan Forest attended East Mecklenburg High School and as a sitting member of the state school board has demanded that DPI redo a report because it did not make charter schools sound positive enough.
  • Rob Bryan graduated from Sanderson High School in Raleigh and he literally strong armed a version system called the Achievement School District that has never succeeded anywhere else and Sen. Chad Barefoot, who graduated from East Davidson High School, let him do it as the head of a powerful committee.
  • Jerry Tillman was a principal for Southwestern Randolph County High School and he might be the champion of charter school deregulation.
  • Jason Saine graduated from Lincolnton High School and now literally champions charter schools in his home county and is helping not only the application process of one but gets campaign contributions from a national chain of charter schools.

It is to these lawmakers and other “re-form” minded individuals that the recent set of studies out of Stanford University should be directed.

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) just released “Privatization or Public Investment in Education?” If you are nerdy enough, then you can go here – https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1456.

But here is part of the brief report from Dr. Frank Adamson, the Senior Policy and Research Analyst:

“The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners…and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries should not create education systems in which children lose in the classroom. This report explains how and why some children can lose in a privatized system and makes recommendations to ensure that all children receive equitable, high-quality educational opportunities” (https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/scope-germ-brief-final.pdf)

And while many in the NC General Assembly have claimed that charter schools are “public schools” make sure to see how the funds are dispersed and make sure to see who is actually in control and make sure how admissions processes are administered. Then take a look at the academics and the impact the schools have on the traditional public schools, especially in rural areas like Lincoln County where Rep. Saine operates.

Further in Dr. Adamson’s brief, he makes sure to define what the “Key Features of Education Privatization” are.

“Privatization in education occurs when countries shift towards a “subsidiary state” model that primarily outsources social sector management to private firms. The government only provides services when no suitable private alternative exists. Because public education serves all children, complete privatization of education is difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, mechanisms such as vouchers, charters, and markets allow for private firms to compete in the education market, under the argument that increased competition will provide consumers (students and families) with a greater choice, thus increasing quality. However, in practice, public education contains different constraints than business markets, most notably the obligation of providing every child with a high-quality education. Therefore, as the results in this brief show, privatizing education has accompanied lower and/or more disparate student performance, likely because markets operate with different principles than the requirements of public sectors.”

It’s almost as if it was written in response to North Carolina.

Open Letter to Rep. Jason Saine -You’re a State Representative; Fight For All Public Schools, Not A New Charter School

Dear Rep. Saine,

When you as a lawmaker were elected to office in North Carolina, you took a vow to uphold the state constitution no matter what area you represented. While the interests of any lawmaker’s constituents are of vital importance, it could be argued that the entire state is actually the represented area of any lawmaker. Any policy, law, or act passed will have an effect on all North Carolinians.

One of the most sacred components of the NC state constitution is the edict that the state will provide a quality public education for all students and will fully fund the schools that educate those students. If a lawmaker is beholden to supporting the state constitution and helping make public schools viable for all students, then it is almost as if each lawmaker is a de facto board member for each public school in the state.

That means you should be an advocate for all traditional public schools which is why it seems that having a state representative such as you serve as a board member for West Lake Prep Charter School and helping guide its application process seems a little more than contradictory to the very job you were elected to do.

In fact, you even created the private foundation that started the application.

According to a report from The Lincoln Times on Dec. 6, 2016, by Michelle Bernard “Another charter school proposed for Lincoln County”,

“An application for a new charter school was filed by Aaron Hoegle of Denver with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Office of Charter Schools.

West Lake Preparatory Academy would be located in eastern Lincoln County and would operate under the nonprofit Lincoln Charter Education Foundation, in partnership with the “education management organization” Charter Schools USA (CSUSA), which manages charter schools in seven states. The Lincoln Charter Education Foundation, according to the application, was initially created by state Rep. Jason Saine and former county commissioner Tom Anderson, who will each serve on the school’s board. The application says a waitlist of more than 1,000 students at Lincoln Charter School, the only charter school currently operating in Lincoln County, led Saine to create the foundation. Hoegle is listed as the foundation’s president, Anderson as its vice president and Saine as its treasurer. Preston Curtis, the son of state Sen. David Curtis, is listed as the board’s secretary. Former Lincoln County educator Glenda Walker and attorney Mathias Hunnoval round out the board’s membership” (http://www.lincolntimesnews.com/2016/12/06/another-charter-school-proposed-lincoln-county/).

If there is a waiting list of 1000 students in a rural county for a charter school, then what has not been done to help the very public schools that already service these students? Why is there a need to have a private company like Charter Schools USA come in a take state money to “manage” a school that will threaten the vitality of the very public schools that you are sworn to protect and uphold?

Why create another situation where some (NOT ALL) students get to go to a state-of-the art school based on a lottery system when you could take that money being used to pay CSUSA and reinvest it in schools that serve ALL Lincoln County students. As the “5th Most Effective Member of the State House” (www.jasonsaine.com), you could actually make all public schools more effective by acting as a true servant and being an advocate for all NC students.

Maybe a better question might be “Would you stand up in front of the State School Board and fight for funds for all Lincoln County Schools the way that you stood in front of the Charter School Advisory Board on December 8th to ‘fight’ for West Lake?”

Granted, you may respond with the argument for school choice and that there should be competition like there is in the free market. But when should a state service be based on competition when it is supposedly guaranteed by the state constitution? To say that competition is good for schools and that students would benefit from that choice is a loaded proposition as traditional schools are not allowed to even operate in such a way as charter schools are. Besides, traditional public schools accept all students. Charter schools do not. Yet, fully fund those traditional schools with resources and they sure can be competitive.

You may say that the public school system is failing the students and that charter schools are a viable solution. Yet, public schools provide a great reflection of a society and how it prioritizes education. When our schools are told that they are failing, those with the power to affect change are really the ones who deserve the failing grades. And as your website states, you are supposedly effective and can affect change.

You may say that you are honoring the parents who believe that tax monies allotted to their children should be spent in ways that best “educate” their children. But are not the tax monies we use to educate children really intended for the support of a viable public education system for those children? The state does not simply invest in children; it invests in a system that allows for children to be educated. As a sage old friend, mentor, and master teacher once stated, “Public education, despite the appalling trends of the past couple of decades, is a sacred trust the efficacy of which will assure that a participatory, representative democracy will thrive…or wilt. The best interests of all of us are well served by a sound public school system.”

He’s absolutely correct.

And money should not be an issue when it comes to funding our public schools, at least according to some of your actions and words. You made a lot of news in 2015 when you spent nearly $20,000 of campaign money on clothes. An August 10th, 2015 report by Jim Morrill (“Rep. Jason Saine defends $19,000 clothing buy“) stated,

“N.C. Rep. Jason Saine on Monday defended spending more than $19,000 in campaign money on clothes, including some from a custom tailor in Charlotte.

Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, cited the spending on his most recent campaign report. It was first reported on The Daily Haymaker, a conservative website.

Saine spent $17,908 on clothes from Tom James Co., which bills itself as “the world’s largest manufacturer of custom clothing.”

That’s over half the salary of many of the teachers I work with even after those “historic” raises.

Yet it is a quote by you in that report that really frames the need for fully funding the schools that we already have. You said,

“I get the sticker shock. But it’s part of the cost of doing the business that I’m in.”

Well, you are supposed to be in the business of supporting all of our public schools. So, instead of heading up private concerns to take public monies, why don’t you just be effective and fully fund the schools we already have for all students despite what you may think is sticker shock.

That’s the cost of doing the business of what the state is obliged to do.