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Washington State charter school Initiative 1240 and the lack of accountability

Since 2007, OII ( U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement) has handed over $909,000,000 to state education agencies (SEAs) and others (non-SEAs) to open and run charter schools.  And true to the Wall Street philosophy of free and unrestricted greed, the OII has provided no oversight, no regulation, and almost no guidance for the hundreds of millions OII is shoveling to the corporate welfare kings who are operating these urban penal schools.

Jim Horn, Schools Matter

The proponents of Washington State’s charter school Initiative 1240 talk about how charter schools will be free of public oversight and regulations.

This is correct and because of that, parents and students will have no recourse in terms of what they might consider unfair treatment by a charter school. There will be no Seattle School Board Director to go to for advice or support, no district superintendent to go to, no State Representative to ask for help, not even the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction would be able to step in on the behalf of the student. Why? Because there would be no public oversight, just an appointed Charter School Commission that would answer only to the Governor and good luck with that, particularly if we get a Republican Governor.

Charter schools in various states have taken advantage of this financial free-for-all to the detriment of our students and with a tremendous loss of tax dollars.

Bill Horn at Schools Matter has broken down the Federal Department of Education’s report on the lack of oversight in three states that were chosen to be reviewed by the DOE. The state is to be responsible for oversight, not the Federal Government, so don’t expect the Feds to come up with many more of these reports, particularly because Gates and Broad have their people there, and they are probably not please with these results.

Now, on to Jim Horn’s article, TRACK ME!

When corporate education antiquarians reformers talk about the virtues of charter schools, high on their list is charter freedom from bureaucratic red tape and regulations that rule the “government” schools.  Without such restrictions, the story goes, charter schools are free to innovate, adapt to changing needs locally, and improve learning.  Sounds great, right?

What this means in reality is that charter school corporations, both nonprofit and for-profit, are unconstrained in opening schools in any discarded shell of a building, without libraries, gyms, art rooms, clinics, or any of the other humanizing elements we associate with public schools in the suburbs.   They are also without restraint in the way they hire and fire teachers without due process, unregulated in the way they deal with parents or keep their books, and most importantly, they are unregulated in the way they run these urban reform schools based on a 19th Century instructional model and an 18th Century behavioral catechism.

Children with special education plans (IEPs) are left without special education teachers, and children who cannot read are dumped into classes where all children are treated with the same distant disregard that the lockdown behavioral system requires.

I recently visited one of these chain gangs (location anonymous to protect the person who made my visit possible), where I found these same realities.  What impressed me first was the “library,” which was comprised of a single deserted cart, and not a book cart, of paperbacks in the most distant corner of the commons area on the first floor.

I saw classes run by TFA teachers who acted more like detached prison guards than teachers.  The closest they came to students was to sign their discipline forms that offenders carried from class to class. Their most obvious concern was a form of behavior that required total compliance, and in one class a sixth grader who could not read looked on as the over-animated TFAer expostulated on the vagaries of correlative conjunctions.  When a child’s attention strayed from the “teacher,” she responded with a sharp “TRACK ME!”.  All students snapped to attention in their seats, leaning forward slightly with hands folded, and staring intently at the teacher as she moved across the front of the room.

So while the students in these schools that no middle class parent would allow their children are doing lots of TRACKING, we find now what we knew all along:  no one, from the U. S, Dept. of Ed on down, is tracking the scammers and corporate welfare kings whose school businesses are draining public school coffers while effectively resegregating African-American children in corporate-run reform schools.  (Remember the $212,000,000 hole that will be created in Memphis during the next five years for the massive charter expansion?)

Yesterday a story emerged on a recent federal audit of the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) run by corporate stooge, Jim Shelton.  In recent years the OII, which is directed by Gates and Broad, has gone all in on charters as the best tool for segregated corporatization of urban schools.  Since 2007, OII has handed over $909,000,000 to state education agencies (SEAs) and others (non-SEAs) to open and run charter schools.  And true to the Wall Street philosophy of free and unrestricted greed, the OII has provided no oversight, no regulation, and almost no guidance for the hundreds of millions OII is shoveling to the corporate welfare kings who are operating these urban penal schools. Click chart to enlarge

Below is the sobering summary of the OIG report findings, which will be presented in more detail in the coming days.  You may download the report here.

We determined that OII did not effectively oversee and monitor the Charter School Program grantees and did not have an adequate process to ensure SEAs conducted effective oversight and monitoring over subgrantees. Specifically, OII did not have an adequate corrective action plan process in place to ensure grantees were correcting deficiencies noted in annual monitoring reports, did not have a risk-based approach for selecting non-SEA grantees for monitoring, and did not adequately review SEA and non-SEA grantees’ fiscal activities. We also found that OII did not provide the SEAs with adequate guidance on the monitoring activities they were to conduct in order to comply with applicable Federal laws and regulations. In addition, OII did not ensure SEAs developed and implemented adequate monitoring procedures for properly handling a charter school closure. Specifically, OII did not ensure SEAs had procedures to properly account for SEA grant funds spent by closed charter schools and disposition of assets purchased with SEA grant funds in accordance with Federal regulations (p. 9).

Today Jim Horn published the second part in his series on public oversight or rather, the lack thereof, for charter schools. To follow is an excerpt from:

Finding 1: OII Did Not Conduct Effective Oversight of Grantees Receiving Charter School Grants

The OIG examined records in three states: Florida, California, and Arizona.  Amounts of grants below:

FINDING NO. 1 – OII Did Not Conduct Effective Oversight of Grantees Receiving the SEA and Non-SEA Grants.

OII did not conduct effective oversight of SEAs [State Education Agencies] and charter schools receiving the SEA and non-SEA grants.  Specifically, we found that OII did not

· require that grantees and subgrantees develop corrective action plans to address monitoring issues and deficiencies identified,

· have a risk-based approach for selecting non-SEA grantees for monitoring, or

· adequately review SEA and non-SEA grantees’ fiscal activities.

Lack of an Adequate Corrective Action Plan Process

OII did not require that grantees and subgrantees develop corrective action plans to address monitoring issues and deficiencies identified in WestEd’s monitoring reports. This occurred because OII did not have policies and procedures in place to ensure grantees corrected deficiencies noted in monitoring reports. In addition, OII did not follow up effectively on issues identified in monitoring reports. OII did not take any alternative means to ensure corrective action took place, such as including followup activities in the WestEd contract if OII did not have adequate resources to perform this function itself. As a result, OII was unaware of whether grantees and subgrantees took corrective actions to address issues that WestEd identified in its monitoring reports. . . . .

Florida Monitoring Report

The Florida SEA’s first monitoring report, issued in November 2008, identified many serious deficiencies that were similar to issues we identified during our audit (Finding No. 2). OII made its only documented follow-up phone call to the Florida SEA in April 2011 (29 months later), regarding the deficiencies noted in the monitoring report. According to OII’s documentation, all deficiencies noted in the 2008 monitoring report were deemed “resolved” without any supporting documentation. Since our audit work identified issues similar to the deficiencies WestEd identified in 2008, we concluded that OII’s determination that all identified deficiencies were resolved was not accurate. Both WestEd and our audit noted that Florida left most subgrantee monitoring to the LEAs. Further, OII’s follow-up phone call process was not effective for ensuring deficiencies identified in WestEd’s monitoring reports were correctly resolved.

In addition, by the time OII made its documented followup phone call to the Florida SEA to address deficiencies identified in 2008, WestEd had already conducted its second monitoring visit of the Florida SEA in February 2011. In fact, according to OII documentation, WestEd’s February 2011 monitoring visit was mentioned during that followup phone call. WestEd went on to issue its second report in July 2011. We concluded that OII waited for WestEd to conduct its second monitoring visit of Florida, almost 3 years after the first one was conducted, before following up with deficiencies noted on the first monitoring report. The revisit monitoring report did not note any serious deficiencies in Florida, finding that “Florida has demonstrated the necessary program management and fiscal controls to meet the application’s objectives.” Our audit work in the Florida SEA found the contrary.. . . .

For recipients of the non-SEA grant, we reviewed charter schools in Arizona that received the non-SEA grant during the fiscal years 2007–2010. Of the 17 charter schools in Arizona that received the non-SEA grant during the fiscal years 2007–2010, 11 received WestEd monitoring visits. We examined the monitoring reports for all 11 charter schools as part of our audit. For the 11 monitoring reports we examined, OII could not provide support for any corrective actions to rectify the significant deficiencies noted. Significant deficiencies WestEd noted in its monitoring reports of these 11 charter schools included:

(1) Federal definition of a charter school was not met;

(2) parents and other members of the community were not involved in the planning, design, and implementation of the school;

(3) lack of a high‐quality strategy for assessing the achievement of the non-SEA grant objectives;

(4) uses of Charter School Program funds were not allowable, allocatable, and reasonable;

(5) lack of fiscal control and fund accounting procedures; and

(6) financial and programmatic records related to the Charter School Program funds were not adequately maintained.

OII did not have documentation in its files to support adequate follow-up to the non-SEA charter school grantees.

OII did not require any of the charter schools to develop corrective action plans in response to the WestEd monitoring reports. OII did not implement an adequate corrective action plan for SEA or non-SEA grantees to ensure they corrected instances of noncompliance noted in the WestEd monitoring reports. OII stated that, for SEA grant recipients, it was the SEA’s responsibility to verify whether its subgrantees complied with applicable laws and regulations. OII’s use of follow-up phone calls to grantees did not ensure the grantees would resolve significant deficiencies identified in WestEd monitoring reports in a reasonable amount of time.. . . .

OII did not review SEA and non-SEA grantees’ fiscal activities as part of its monitoring activities. Specifically, OII could not provide evidence that grantee’s expenditure information was reviewed as required by the Department’s “Handbook for the Discretionary Grant Process,” . . .

For the three SEA grantees we reviewed, OII could not provide evidence that it reviewed expenditure information using the Department’s grants management system (G5) as required.7 OII officials stated that they reconciled expenditures with G5 annually; however, we could not find adequate evidence in the SEA grantee folders that OII performed this activity. The OII Charter School Division director stated that OII needed to improve their process for collecting and reconciling expenditures with information in the G5 system.

For the 11 non-SEA grantees we reviewed, OII could not provide evidence that it reviewed expenditure information using the G5 system as required. . . . .

Because OII did not (1) require that grantees and subgrantees develop corrective action plans to address monitoring issues and deficiencies, (2) have a risk-based approach for selecting non- SEA grantees for monitoring, and (3) adequately monitor fiscal activities, there is a heightened risk that grantees were not fully complying with program goals and objectives as well as Federal laws and regulations. As a result, there is increased risk that Department funds were not used for the intent and purpose of the program.

For the full post, go to Schools Matter.

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