Category Archives: charter schools

Tax Cut Extender: Boon to Charter Schools

Illustration: FRBSF

Charter schools are among the big winners in the tax cut extender deal signed into law on December 17 by President Barack Obama.

Section 733 of H.R. 4853 provides for an additional $7 Billion in 2010/2011 New Market Tax Credits, an economic development program created in 2000 during the Clinton Administration.

So-called Community Development Entities can apply for these tax credits on behalf of non-profits such as charter schools, and package them for wealthy investors who use the credits to reduce their own IRS obligations. To someone in the highest tax bracket, the after-tax equivalent return on such an investment can be about 10-12% per year, with minimal risk. Continue reading

Advertisements

Charter Schools: Public or Private?

A couple of months ago, the MTA shut down Brooklyn’s B23 bus route, which had served the Kensington and Ditmas Park neighborhoods for decades. Replacing it will be city-sanctioned “dollar vans,” operated by Sunset Transportation Service, Inc.

The B23 story is an example of the privatization of government services that’s happening throughout the United States — a series of decisions by local governments to substitute private companies for public employees to deliver essential services. Continue reading

NY Media Ignore Major Charter School Study

For reasons we can’t explain, a June 29, 2010 study that showed “on average, charter schools had no significant impacts on student achievement in math and reading” drew zero attention from New York media — including education blogs.

The 15-state, 36-school study, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and conducted by the prestigious Princeton-based Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., was announced one day after the New York State Senate passed legislation raising the state’s charter school cap from 200 to 460 — a result of a months-long lobbying campaign by charter advocates.

Until the legislature’s approval, New Yorkers had been bombarded by TV commercials, print ads, and editorials and op-ed pieces in the Daily News, the Post, and the NY Times — all urging legislators to lift the charter cap to improve New York’s chance to win Federal funding in Round 2 of Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s school reform incentive program.

But critics suggested that the RttT eligibility goal was just cover for a well-funded opinion campaign aimed at pressuring legislators to increase the number of charter schools. Ultimately, the legislation incorporated several limitations, including a stipulation that new charters may not be operated by for-profit companies. Continue reading

When Schools Battle for Parents’ Hearts and Minds

P.S. 217 Odyssey photo courtesy Matthew Septimus

Rick Hess, education guru at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, says that the whole point of giving parents a choice between charters and traditional public schools is to create competition, which forces both to improve. One form this competition takes is in how they recruit new students. Charters don’t seem to have to jump through the same hoops as TPSs do. We witnessed this recently in Flatbush. Continue reading

What Happens When a Charter School Arrives

Do charter schools raise educational standards? The schools’ proponents say that charters educate more effectively than traditional public schools, and even those that don’t, still create a competitive environment in which traditional public schools are “incentivized” to improve their own teaching methods. Can this logic be disputed?

The pro-charter school argument ignores that charters can hurt overall educational progress by undermining nearby traditional public schools. Charters’ aggressive marketing efforts can force TPSs to expand their own publicity campaigns, diverting money and time that otherwise would have gone to support instruction. A charter’s arrival in a neighborhood also can demoralize a public school’s leadership and parents, who view the interloper as a competitor for space and dollar resources and community support. But it is outside the schoolhouse walls that charters may do their most lasting damage, if they create or exacerbate social divisions in the community. How this plays out depends on the neighborhood, and the quality of its traditional public school. Continue reading

Charter Schools: The Power of Marketing

Wednesday’s New York Times ran a front-page story on some Harlem public schools that are responding to pressure from charters by aggressively marketing themselves. Such marketing typically includes school tours for prospective parents, augmented by postcards and brochures, with most campaigns [amounting] “to less than $500, raised by parents and teachers….”

The Times story tells how prospective parents touring P.S. 125 with its principal, Rafaela Espinal, showed appreciation for the low number of students they saw in each classroom and the school’s impressive physical amenities, which include a rare swimming pool. But some parents, according to the Times, still weighed sending their child elsewhere. Continue reading

Charter Schools Chief Tells It (sort of) Like It Is

Michael Duffy photo: the Lo-Down

In a revealing interview with NYC Department of Education charter schools head Michael Duffy, Ed Litvak of the Lower East Side news blog The Lo-Down questions Duffy about how the NYCDOE used a recent public hearing on the proposed expansion of a Lower East Side charter school. Duffy’s response won’t surprise anyone who has sat through a charter school hearing:

“It definitely provides a forum for people to speak out, and I think that’s a good thing. It helps to get good information out there… I think, for my part, in a couple of hours of comments, I didn’t hear anything new from the public that wasn’t already known prior to the start of the hearing. I know it’s important that people have a chance to speak their mind, but I don’t think there’s anything that wasn’t known to the Department prior to the proposal…” Continue reading