Sunday, October 16, 2016

Following the money on building charter schools By Bruce C. Ditata

Like the old-time bluegrass pickers, Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt, Marc Kenen has blended his banjo (“Your View: The ‘Big Lie’ about charter school funding,” Sept. 30) with The Standard-Times guitar (“Our View: Alma del Mar sets high standard for charters,” Sept. 18) — dueling choruses of dubious support for charter schools.
Loving what it saw at the Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford, The Standard- Times gushed about the absence of public money for new construction, “struck by an astonishing fact: (Alma del Mar) was built without MassachusettsSchool BuildingAdministration funds.”
Most of the school’s funding — to the tune of $22 million dollars — came from Mass-Development, a quasi-public agency. The “quasi” portion derives from the fact Mass Development’s working capital comes from private investment, land development, loans and interest earned from private investment.
The public portion about Mass Development derives from the fact its board of directors is appointed by Charlie Baker, governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, an avowed, outspoken supporterof lifting the cap oncharter schools.
The Standard-Times’ visitors to Alma Del Mar also noted “there are no smartboards or other technological “bells and whistles” in the classrooms, but the creativity and innovation of teachers and other staff. … Furthermore, (there is) regular sharing of best practices with district teachers in a positive and cooperative relationship (that) lives up to the ideals of the charter system.”
Are we to deduce, therefore, that students who benefit from such “bells and whistles” — students on Special Education Individualized Education Plans and 504 Plans — are better served without the visual, auditory and kinesthetic interventions such technological provides?
Are we, also, to believe that “creativity,” “innovation,” plus, “the regular sharing of best practices,” exists solely in the charter schools setting andsuch basic teaching techniques are non-existent in district schools?
It’s the worn, erroneous narrative that charter schools have, magically, invented “creativity, innovation and best practices” in education.
And Mr. Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, broadens the myth with the notion “charters are given more flexibility to organize around a core mission, curriculum, theme.” Underpaid charter school teachers who have been denied collective bargaining rights, and who work longer school days and school years might offer a different opinion if they were not afraid to be fired as a result. Ultimately, traditional district schools have to depend on public funding by MSBA to enable new construction, while Alma Del Mar’s building funds were, essentially, private investments. This fact negates the slogan repeated over and over again by pandering supporters who say charter schools receive “public funds for public schools.”
In truth, it’s “private investments for charter schools.” But not according to Kenen, who maintained in his recent op-ed that “there are no “investors,” as stated by opponents.” 
In the convoluted world of those like Kenen who know the public is unaware of the investment motivation of for-profit entities like MassDevelopment, it’s advantageous to foist a Houdini disappearing act about where much of the charter school money comes from.
That’s really the “Big Lie” about charter schools and why a no vote on Ballot Question 2 is the wiser, fairer, more prudent choice for the future of public schools in Massachusetts.

No comments: