With the Race to the Top (RTTT) funds dwindling, charter schools are having to balance their books and keep their CEO’s well paid by cutting out face-to-face class time with teachers and instead, placing those students in front of computer screens.

They refer to this as “blended learning”. I have another word for it but I won’t use that word here.

First KIPP was replacing qualified and certified teachers with Teach for America, Inc. (TFA) recruits with five weeks of training now it’s cutting costs by adding computers and subtracting teachers. This is a trend that is, unfortunately, catching on in Seattle with the RTTT grant that will be received by Seattle Public Schools and six other districts. There will be more students, particularly those considered “disadvantaged” sitting in front of computer screens so that they can better comprehend math. A dubious undertaking at best, but some superintendents do seem to be thrilled with this approach.

rttt supe's
Renton schools chief Mary Alice Heuschel, in green jacket, celebrates the news with other King County superintendents. Next to her are Highline’s Susan Enfield and Federal Way’s Robert Neu.

Particularly Susan Enfield, former superintendent of Seattle Public Schools and now superintendent at Highline, and Mary Alice Heuschel, superintendent in Renton, both shown in the photo above. What I find interesting about these two superintendents is that they both brought TFA into their districts against the protests of their communities and now will be sitting in positions of greater political power with our new Democratic governor in office.

Coincidence? I’m too cynical at this point watching people climb the political ladder of ed reform in the last few years to believe otherwise but time, and a little more information, will tell.

Getting back to KIPP, one of the charter schools that is chomping at the bit to establish schools in our state, it does seem that profits are more important than properly educating students, particularly those with the greatest needs.

According to The Lens:

As KIPP New Orleans Schools’ large, one-time grants begin to run out, the finance committee prepared its board for a renewed push in fundraising and a drive to build cash reserves for the future.

“A significant non-recurring revenue phase out in the near term could lead us to our own fiscal cliff,” finance committee member Stephen Rosenthal said.

The committee hopes to avoid this cliff by implementing blended learning techniques involving more computer-based instruction similar to those used by other local charter organizations. The hope is to cut costs by raising class sizes, lowering per pupil expenses, and filling KIPP schools with more students—ideally reaching the point of four classes per grade.

Rosenthal said that federal consolidated grants have shrunk in response to the nation’s economic downturn. Grants such as the Race to the Top from KIPP’s headquarters, Title I, and a federal grant designed to support educational innovation can’t be renewed, leaving the charter organization seeking new funds.

The organization needs to raise at least $5 million in the next three years to ensure a 10 percent continuing surplus moving forward, Rosenthal said. This money would provide the school a cash reserve for a future with new expenses like big-ticket facility repairs.

“We need to start discussing the building of cash reserves. We must act now or go into a deficit without the revenues to support us,” finance committee member Alan Philipson said.

It seems that KIPP needs to be more concerned about how their students are doing than how much money they can raise at their next gala.

According to the Louisiana Department of Education website, the six KIPP charter schools in New Orleans have the following state report card grades:

KIPP N.O. Leadership Academy     D

KIPP Renaissance High School       D

KIPP McDonogh 15                           C

KIPP Central City Primary               D

KIPP Central City Academy (5-8)   B

KIPP Believe College Prep                B

It looks like consolidation is in order rather than placing students in front of computer screens.

I wonder what they have planned for Seattle.

Dora Taylor