The Real War Behind Common Core Part 5: Charter Schools and Loss of Local Control

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In Part I, I established a backdrop for how the people have lost local control and have confused the public with the private, and indeed have formed mergers called, “public private partnerships” or “P3s.”

I urge you to review each Part in sequence so that you can follow the logic and avoid confusion or misinterpretation of this argument.

Part 2, describes the history behind the P3 and begins to discuss what this sacred cow is and how it has killed “choice” in the trade market.

Part 3 explains more about what this sacred cow is, how it has damaged free enterprise and competition in the health care industry, and how it is applied to education policy.

Part 4, dissects the anatomy of the Charter school movement vs. the private school and shows what has gone wrong – very wrong – enough to kill reduce parental choices and to destroy the private schools and force them into the public system.

In Part 5, I illustrate how open enrollment, the hallmark of school choice/charters, has forced loss of local control and accountability to the taxpayer, and how it is feeding the consolidation of power beast. I identify the charter school as the business model, funding plan and organizational structure for the regionalization and nationalization of public schools, which completely removes accountability to the local taxpayer.  This is taxation without representation.

School Choice, Charter Schools = Loss of Local Control

For years, parents complained about how they were stuck with one neighborhood school they didn’t like, but they couldn’t move, and they had no choices.  Back to Part 1, I explained how I ran for the school board on a “school choice/voucher” platform because I felt that same frustration.  We needed a choice of curriculum and if we couldn’t get it in the neighborhood school, then we should have the right to apply for another school.  It’s was called “open enrollment.”

How wrong I was.  But we got what we wished for.  Here’s the flaw: 

Because charter schools are populated on an open enrollment basis, and not restricted to the neighborhood/ geographical boundary for property tax assessment, the charter schools and private voucher-accepting schools have no local tax base to which they are accountable.  This actually constitutes the loss of local control.

How does that happen? Because the tax base (based on district or local property tax assessments) must be equalized (redistributed) statewide in order to make enrollment fair and funded by the people paying for those schools – the taxpayers STATEWIDE.  Redistribution is another one of those pesky Manifesto goals.

Utah narrowly staved off the equalization of school funding in its 2013 session. The Republican floor sponsor said in defense of it, “Well, we all know that the public school system is socialist in the first place, so why not make it 100% socialist?”

But with the popularity and growth of charter schools, equalization is inevitable, unless legislators become aware of what they are doing to destroy local control.  Remember, though, they are at the STATE level.  All too often, from their perspective, the state is LOCAL.

As with many state charter school boards, including Utah’s, some charter school boards are unelected. For those that do have elected boards, the taxpayers who are funding that school, aren’t allowed to elect them, unless they have children in that school or are employees. Where is the accountability?  It’s definitely not local.

Unlike the old-fashioned neighborhood school in which the taxes went directly to that school, with all its limitations (“I hate my neighborhood school!”) at least the school board was accountable to that neighborhood property tax base.  Charter schools, as soon as there are enough of them, will demand the redistribution of wealth statewide.  How is this local control?  It’s not.  It’s consolidation of power.

That is why, in Part 1, I wrote that we need to restore the neighborhood public school system.

IBM CEO Supports Consolidation

Other evidences of consolidation are being promoted under “conservative” banners.  In 2008, and reiterated again in 2013, former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner wrote in the Wall Street Journal that 16,000 school districts across the nation are just too many. There should only be 70 – one for each state, and then one for each of the most populated cities.

How is THAT local control? But then, it comports with Republican Lamar Alexander’s video (see Part 1) that there should be only one New American School in each state.

School Community Councils

Local Community Councils may be elected, but only parents/educators who have children at that school are qualified to run and be elected, and they are only elected by the parents/guardians/employees of that school.

Where is the accountability to the taxpayer funding that school, redistributed or not?  The solution legislators are promoting is, again, to equalize the funds statewide.  That’s consolidation.  It’s centralization. This is not local control.

What is local?  Is it state to neighborhood, district to neighborhood, or school to neighborhood?

And wait, while I’m at it, where is – how close is – the accountability to the voter in Burlington, Vermont that contributed Title I Funds to that school in Alpine, Utah?  It’s the “miracle” of redistribution, negotiated between 535 members of Congress that are more accountable to the DC lobbyists than the people they represent.  But that is not local control.

In short, the charter school, and school choice is the business model, the funding plan and the organizational structure for the restructuring movement.  It represents the complete loss of local control and taxation without representation!

Should that not be the focus of this entire education debate, rather than which standard is higher than another? Our representative form of government is hanging in the balance, while the entire Common Core debate centers on standards and backs itself into a corner from which it will not escape.

The Standards Debate: A Distraction

Then why is everyone rallying around “Stop Common Core Standards?”  Certainly that cry has awakened about 48% of the public.  At least they have heard the label before.  But by April 2012, after nearly two years debating whether or not Utah had Common Core Standards and if they were really state-led or not, I could see that it was going to bottleneck and get mired in spitting matches over whose standards were better, and coming up with “better” standards as the solution.  How does that address authentic local control?

In 2009, Utah was once again on the front lines, adopting the Common Core standards (CCSSI) before they were written in order to get the federal funds, aligning with the work force training curriculum.  Aided by technological advances, it is now possible to track every student from cradle-to-grave in a national database to manage the workforce.

No child is left behind, literally, because, in 1992, the College Board ACT entrance exam began to convert to workforce skills assessments, and is now aligning with the Common Core skills training called “college and career readiness.” The same is happening with the SAT.

The P3’s are the brainchild of the U.S. Chamber, merging private business with public education, promoting for-profit schools and the cheerleader for putting commerce first, at the expense of America first – even at the expense of liberty or sovereignty.

Utah has not seen such a citizen uprising against the status quo in recent memory as it has with opposition to CCSSI.

In 2013 the Utah Republican Party passed a resolution overwhelmingly opposing the CCSSI which called on the governor, state school board and state legislature to exit Common Core.

Will Utah legislators pay attention to what 65.5% of the GOP delegates asked them to do? Most likely it will be a major battle. Crony politics typically insulates them from the voters because the local Chamber of Commerce and major business leaders who are now invested in private-public partnerships and the workforce-connected reforms also provide major funding for the political campaigns which elect the representatives.  The government affairs directors (lobbyists) make that clear to the newly-elected especially.

I organized that successful GOP resolution campaign, with the help of many.  I learned afterward that the Party was angry with me because “it cost us some of our major donors.” (Most likely Chamber of Commerce friends.)

common core standardsBut these “free-enterprise” reforms called school choice, charters and vouchers, pre-dated Common Core.  And with or without Common Core, they will continue to be the real source of loss of local control and an authentic competitive market. While CC has captured many parents’ attention and solutions beg the question, the standards discussion has become a distraction from what the real problems are and what the real remedies must be.

Charlton-Heston-Moses-10-commandmentsAs my colleague for over 24 years – Charlotte Iserbyt, former Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of Education and author of The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America (a MUST read) – says, “It wouldn’t matter whether the standards were straight from the Ten Commandments or from the Communist Manifesto,” it’s wrong for the federal government to control any standards at all, much less the curriculum and assessments. In fact, by law that is prohibited by both GEPA, the General Education Provisions Act as well as the DEOA (Department of Education Organization Act) and No Child Left Behind amendments as described by the Federalist Society.

the-communist-manifestoTo entertain continued discussion of whether my standard or yours is best only lends credibility to the existence of a system of national standards. It’s time to focus on real remedies, and contrary to most conservative think thanks, the answers are not with school choice.  That is, in fact, the war.

This reform movement and the conservative-Republican infatuation with school choice has given us consolidation, regionalization, nationalization.  Representative government is being lost while most concerned citizens are focused on standards.  I understand the marketing strategy of a “loss leader:”  Get people into a store on a popular offer, and then up-sell with other products.

But what’s the up-sell for these conservative think tanks, lobbyists and organizations?  I’ll answer that in Part 6.

Getting past all this conservative school choice noise, and given the number of Americans now beholden to entitlements and employed by government at all levels, it will take nothing short of moving mountains to get enough elected officials to accomplish this proposed action plan.

But these talking points are worth the uphill climb and must be discussed so that the uninformed will be educated. If this course is not reversed, at least those who listened will one day know what happened to them as they stand in the bread lines of an equalized third world economy, controlled from the top down.

I hope that I have laid out a logical and reasoned case for why public private partnerships (e.g. charter schools), in any setting, are dangerous to local control, free enterprise and in short, liberty. Next, and finally, Part 6: How to Kill the Sacred Cow and Restore Local Control, or An Education Policy Action Plan.  Oh, and…who are the national lobbying groups and organizations backing charter schools?

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