Eric Fleischauer's column in yesterday's Decatur Daily is a must-read for anyone following the push for charter schools in Alabama. As many of us suspected, HB451 (sponsored by Rep. Phil Williams) is less a “reform” than yet another corporate giveaway program.
I urge you to read the entire column and read the bill that's posted at OpenBama.org. But here are a few nuggets:
HB 541 authorizes charter schools to borrow money and issue bonds. If they go out of business while in debt — as many in the nation have — the state is stuck paying the creditors. “The Legislature finds that the state has a moral obligation to repay any bonds issued by a public charter school,” according to HB 541.
While HB 541 only allows nonprofit organizations to create charter schools, it provides plenty of room for abuse.
In districts with a single low-performing school, though, the decision is made by a state agency called the Charter School Application Review Council. Its nine members are appointed, not elected, with the governor's five appointees having control. Remarkably, each of the members of the council “shall have demonstrated … commitment to charter schooling.”
A nonprofit organization can, under HB 541, pay a private company to take over management and operations of the charter school. Private companies can give unlimited gifts to the charter school. The likelihood is high that the nonprofit organization that creates the school will be a mere shell of the for-profit company that runs it.
Understand that this bill has some high-powered support. Speaker of the House (and former Alabama GOP chair) Mike Hubbard is a co-sponsor. So we have to assume that that Alabama GOP super-majority in the legislature is on board and happy to:
- Pass charter school debts along to taxpayers – at a time when some in state government question whether PACT contract holders have an actual contract that should be fulfilled.
- Have the governor's hand-picked charter school proponents control the governing board.
- Set up a system that lets corporate interests hide behind non-profits, suck up as much money as possible, then cut and run – leaving taxpayers holding the bill.
The truth about the bill is even worse.
btw… if you haven't read Eric Fleischauer's blog – Mile304.com – it's certainly worth your time.
[One final addendum … If you want to learn more about the charter school bill, the Over the Mountain Dems are sponsoring a panel discussion on Tuesday, April 17 at 6:30 PM in the Linn-Henley Lecture Hall at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Panelists will be:
- Emily Schultz, Alabama Education Policy Director;
- Craig Witherspoon, Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools;
- Yvette Richardson, State Board of Education, District 4;
- Sally Howell, Executive Director of the Alabama Association of School Boards;
- Patricia Todd, Representative for House District 54.
This bill is almost certain to pass, come find out what we're getting into. – mooncat]