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| Promoting Strong Public Schools

Systemic Fraud Found In GOP-Endorsed Charter Schools

Atlas Left - May 24, 2014, by Josh Kilburn - The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would grant $3 million in taxpayer money to charter schools; schools that both Democrats and Republicans are lining up behind. In the wake of this, Ring of Fire took a critical eye to some of the rampant abuses in the system with guest and Bill Moyers.com senior digital producer, Joshua Hollands, present to help explain what it meant.

While discussing how abused the system is, Joshua Holland referenced a report by Integrity in Education and the Center for Popular Democracy in regards to the systematic abuse and waste in charter schools:

[They found] in fifteen states, just fifteen states they looked at, they found $140 million dollars in public funds that were lost to fraud, waste, and abuse . . . This is all taxpayer money, so, that’s right. What they found, for example, was using public education dollars, these private operators were using them to prop up other businesses. There was an incident where somebody was feeding these public dollars into their health food store. In another instance, there was somebody who was using these dollars to make repairs on their apartment complex that they’d rented out. This again is somewhat unsurprising given that you have such limited oversight.

And the reason for that limited oversight? Charter schools try to have it both ways; when it comes to public money, they’re suddenly public institutions. When it comes to public oversight, they change the color of their scales and become private institutions with “proprietary secrets.”

There are other problems as well; charter school teachers are paid less than public school teachers, administrations are paid more, and they’re less likely to be unionized than public school teachers.  And that’s the union busing angle: the private sector unionization is at an all time low — only 7%. The majority of unionized workers are in the public sector, which is what the big businesses are targeting in an systematic, widespread anti-union, anti-worker putsch to restore our nation to the gilded glory days of the 1870s and 1880s.

Our public schools are not the problem. In wealthy districts, the public schools are top in the world as far as reading, writing, and other testing goes. It’s only in the poorer districts, where childhood poverty is rampant, that we find the lower numbers pulling down the average. Since “we tolerate a high level of childhood poverty relative to other nations,” in the words of Joshua Holland, and poor children don’t preform as well as their wealthy counterparts do, low test scores should come as no surprise. Out of 35 nations tested, the United States rates 34 in child poverty; the only country below us is Romania. And until we do something about the rampant poverty, instead of blaming it on the teachers, the problem won’t be going away.