Besides removing some of the racist language from the Alabama Constitution, Amendment 4 also appears to lay out a big, fat welcome mat for charter schools in Alabama. Now, I'm not reflexively opposed to charters – if they're done right. But we're in Alabama: home of the corrupt insider legislative deals on, well, just about every issue imaginable – local phone rates to even #$%$ anti-cockfighting legislation.
Does anyone really trust the GOP legislative supermajority to establish charter schools that place education as a higher priority than profit?
If so… I have a boardwalk in Atlantic City I'd love to sell you!
Just look at what's happened in Florida at an Orange County charter school:
The principal in question not only received a $519,000 severance check, but she took home her $305,000 annual salary for a grand total of $824,000 during the 2010-2011 school year. The Orlando Sentinel also reported last week the school only spent $366,000 on teacher salaries and instruction during that school year. Nothing can justify that imbalance, especially for the leader of a charter that failed.
It gets worse: the NorthStar High School's directors paid the principal twice as much as they spent on teacher salaries & student instruction in the 2011-2012 school year.
While Young was getting a handsome salary, the school, made up of concrete portables, lacked computers, a library or a cafeteria for some 180 mostly at-risk and underprivileged students.
The district report said nearly three-quarters of the students failed the state's reading test and half failed math. Students, though, said it was the first school in which they felt supported.
Felt supported? In WHAT? In helping an institution make a higher profit it sounds like….
It's not the first scandal to come out of Florida's charter school experiment. NPR reported that the schools routinely bar disabled and troubled students. In September, financial problems closed 3 charter schools in Broward County:
Annual audits for all three schools show deep financial troubles. A June 2011 audit of Touchdowns4life showed the school was nearly $24,000 behind on its rent, was accused of owing $20,000 to the company that supplied its computer equipment, and had been charged more than $4,000 in bank overdraft fees.
The parent company of Eagle and SMART, according to the most recent audit, owed a $1.2 million debt to the IRS for unpaid payroll taxes.
Nationally, about 12 percent of charter schools opened in the last 20 years have closed, but in Florida, that closure rate is double, according to state figures. Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature has strongly encouraged charter school growth — even allocating school construction dollars exclusively to charters.
Yep. As the real estate market tanked, many investors found an out: they started charter schools in their empty buildings and charged exorbitant rents & fees. Chinese investors have been all over Florida charter schools:
A group of Chinese investors have put $30 million into the state's charter school program to date and are looking to invest three times that amount in the next year, Ilona Vega Jaramillo, director of international business development for Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development arm, said in a US-China roundtable discussion last week.
She would not name any of the investors, citing confidentiality.
In addition, about 12 other Chinese investors have put their $500,000 into a $16 million aquaculture project on 100 acres in Fellsmere, FL.
LIA has written about charters schools before. Learn more:
Dangers of Online Charter Schools
If Public Schools could Operate Like Charter Schools
Alabama charter school opponents need to focus on the real issues.
Influence peddling, corruption, outside investors, schools run as businesses…. that's not true of all charter schools, but you can bet it will be true of any school “chartered” by our Alabama GOP legislators.
That's one of the biggest dangers of Amendment 4.