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CD039: The Charter School Bill

On July 19, 2003, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would largely eliminate the Federal government’s role in K-12 education and expand the number of charter schools in the United States.

H.R. 5: Student Success Act’s stated purpose is to undo a portion of the 2009 stimulus bill (the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act) called Race to the Top, along with a program that Race to the Top helped enact in most of the United States.

Common Core

Race to the Top was a $4.35 billion contest between the States. Financial prizes were awarded to states based on school performance, teacher performance, data reporting, among other factors; one of the most critical factors was the adoption of Common Core standards.

Common Core standards are national minimum standards for English and math education that are intended to be adopted by the entire country. The standards were cleverly implemented. In 2009, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers wrote the standards and then copyrighted the text. By copyrighting the text, the authors ensured that the standards could not be changed by individual states after their adoption, which in effect, created a national standard.

The next step was to get the states to adopt the standards. That’s where Race to the Top came in. In order to be eligible to participate in the Race to the Top contests, States had to adopt the Common Core standards. All but five states did; Texas, Virginia, Alaska, and Nebraska refused to participate. Minnesota adopted English standards, but not math. Essentially, the States had a choice whether or not they would participate in implementing a national standard for education; Race to the Top gave the States incentives and the push mostly worked.

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Common Core has been adopted in most states

Since then, a concentrated effort to stop Common Core has emerged; Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma legislatures are actively trying to stop implementation.

H.R. 5 would help the haters get rid of the Common Core national standards and put control of education policy firmly in the hands of individual states:

  • States can only receive Federal money if they have developed standards for reading, math, and science and have students take annual math and reading tests.
  • The Secretary of Education must approve a State’s plan within 120 days. If it disapproves, the Federal government can’t list specific things the State should change.
  • The Federal government is prohibited from directly or indirectly forcing or incentivizing the adoption of national standards, specifically Common  Core. (TITLE V)

In fact, the bill aimed to take the Federal government out of all aspects of education:

  • No State would need Federal approval for academic standards to receive Federal money (TITLE V)
  • The Federal government can’t influence a State’s choice of curriculum (TITLE V)
  • The Federal government can’t test students or teachers. (TITLE V)
  • States will fill out their own annual report cards. (Section 111)
  • New school programs would not be required to work specifically with Head Start and other government pre-school programs (Section 115)

Charter Schools

One aspect of Race to the Top would continue, however, is the provision lifting the caps on the number of charter schools. In fact, the expansion of charter schools is a clearly stated goal of H.R. 5:

“It is the purpose of this subpart to –

(2) provide financial assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools;

(3) expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to students across the nation; (page 257)

Charter schools are sort-of public schools; they are funded by our taxpayer money but they are exempt from some education standards. Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, described them as “publicly funded institutions run by private entities according to their own rules.” Charter schools are allowed to create their own curriculum and often are not required to provide student services such as transportation and meals like the traditional public schools.

Funding for charter schools is determined state by state, but often the states fund charter schools by diverting money away from the traditional public school district where the new charter school is built. Charter schools are not allowed to charge tuition or use taxpayer money to upgrade their facilities. Unlike traditional public schools, there are avenues for private profit to be made in the charter school system. Charter schools – whether started by a non-profit, university, or our government- can be managed by for-profit corporations.

Highlights of H.R. 5

TITLE III: “Parental Engagement & Local Flexibility” expands the charter school system

  • Charter schools will get as much money as public schools
  • States must pass a law giving charter schools money per student to be eligible for Federal grants
  • No limit on the number or percentage of schools that can be charter schools
  • “Individuals directly involved in the operation of charter schools” need to be consulted by the State while they are developing rules and regulations
  • 15% of funding can be used for facilities and instructional materials
  • Public money will be used to attract private money for property and construction
  • Evaluations will be done on how the government distributed money to charter schools, not what the charter schools do with the money

Makes it easier to overhaul entire education systems:

  • Section 115 allows local governments to change their entire education systems; currently, this can only be done in districts where over 40% of the students are from low-income families
  • New programs can be provided by for-profit businesses.

Lowers qualification and accountability standards:

  • Data used to evaluate schools would only have to be “evidence based” instead of “scientifically based research” (throughout the bill)
  • Teachers need to be “effective” instead of “highly qualified” (throughout the bill)
  • Repeals minimum qualifications for teachers (Section 119)
  • Gives public money for setting up teacher evaluations systems and furthering teacher education in States; the process can be privatized. (TITLE II)
  • Schools teaching teachers can’t be required to have degree-holding faculty, restrictions on infrastructure spending, or accreditation (TITLE II)

Addresses some of the criticisms of charter schools:

  • Provides public money for transportation and nutrition services (Section 105)
  • Provides public money for expanding charter school programs for kids with disabilities (Section 131)
  • Provides public money for programs for kids who need to learn English; the administration can be privatized (Section 131)

Gives charter school and private businesses a larger role in State education policies :

  • Federal money can only go to states with an educational plan that will be written in part by “public charter school representatives, private sector employers, and entrepreneurs.” (Section 111)
  • “Peer review boards” will be created to monitor charter schools. 10-35% of the boards must be “representatives of private sector employers”. Federal government employees are prohibited from participating (Section 111)
  • Advisory boards that review regulations will have seats for charter school representatives, charter school teachers, and private school representatives (Section 151)
  • Local governments need to let private schools help write the programs that how much public money private schools get; local governments must explain any disagreements in writing and an appeal process will be established for private schools (Section 120)

Expands public funding for education services provided by for-profit organizations:

  • Eliminates a requirement that 90% of funds are to go towards “free public education” – this is called the “maintenance of effort” requirement (Section 121)
  • Provides grants of at least $500,000 to organizations that teach “family engagement policies” (TITLE III)
  • Provides grants to “non-governmental entities” which can be public or private organizations, faith-based organizations, or businesses to “increase academic achievement” of public school students (TITLE III)
  • Provides public money for after school, summer school, and tutoring – both online and on-campus (Section 105, TITLE III)
  • Provides public money for private school students, including tutoring (Section 120)
  • Provides public money to private schools based on the number of students enrolled instead of their number of low-income students, unless this is illegal in that State and this can be waived (Section 120)
  • Creates an ombudsman to make sure private schools get their new, increased share of public money (Section 120)
  • The task of administering public funds can be privatized by the States (Section 120)

Ideological provisions:

  • Repeals grants for the Close Up Foundation, which teaches high school students about the democratic process (Section 141)
  • Federal government can’t require the distribution of “scientifically or medically false” materials or prohibit the distribution of “scientifically or medically true” materials (TITLE V)
  • Federal money can’t be used for sex education that doesn’t teach abstinence (TITLE V)
  • Federal money can’t pay for contraceptive programs (TITLE V)
  • Local governments accepting Federal money need to give the names, addresses, and phone numbers of high school students to military recruiters unless the parents opt-out in writing. The opt-out expires on the student’s 18th birthday (TITLE V)

Links to Information & Music Presented in This Episode

Intro and Exit Music: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Music: Save Our School by Children of Selsted CE Primary School (found on Music Alley by mevio)

ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council’s) education page

Edison Learning (a school management company that has recently switched its focus to testing, summer school, and tutoring) has 4 lobbyists working for them this year.

Sylvan Learning Centers (tutoring services) has 5 lobbyists working for them this year.

Rosetta Stone (language learning software) has 7 lobbyists working for them this year.

Representatives Quoted in This Episode

Rep. Virginia (“Grandma”) Foxx of North Carolina

 

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