Friday, April 23, 2010

Ravitch faces off Craig Johnson at Perkins' oversight hearings on charter schools

Sen. Bill Perkins held his oversight hearings on charter schools yesterday, and was criticized by the tabloids for daring to call for more accountability and transparency, despite numerous articles in the press, documenting repeated instances of conflicts of interest and excessive profit-making by the industry.
The Post has published eleven (!!!) articles and opeds in the last two days, shilling for the charter school industry, attacking Perkins, and calling for him to be ousted from office. I doubt the Post has ever expressed as much hostility against Osama Bin Laden himself.
The Daily News ran an editorial today entitled "Lunacy let Loose," saying that those academics and advocates who testified against the potential for unregulated corruption and abuse, and parents who told of how their own children had been pushed out or unfairly treated as making "unsubstantiated accusations, contradictory claims, canards and exaggerations."
The fact is that Sen. Perkins is not alone, and there is now not a single elected official from Harlem who now supports the charter cap being lifted, given the bullying tactics, lies and way in which DOE has allowed the district's public schools to be undermined through the loss of resources, students, and space. (For more on DOE's lies, see this video of CM Inez Dickens at the recent hearing on Harlem Success Academy's co-location at PS 123, who tells how she had been falsely promised by DOE officials two years ago that PS 123 would be able to regain all its lost classrooms and cluster spaces.) In fact, DOE could not do more to promote failure at the district schools that it is responsible for running.
In addition, it is the charter industry and their supporters in the Legislature who insist on preventing the ability of the State Comptroller to audit their use of tax-payer funds; a rather inexcusable position, which the tabloids cannot admit or defend. If there is no corruption there, what have they got to hide?
Diane Ravitch was the lead-off witness yesterday; her entire testimony is posted here. Here is an excerpt:
As the number of charters grows, public authorities must ensure that charter operators are responsible. We have seen stories in the press, especially the New York Daily News, about charters that produce astonishing profits for entrepreneurs and investors, while storing children in trailers with meager facilities. This is not right.
Just last month, on March 9, the New York Times described how public schools in Harlem now must market themselves to compete with charter schools for new students. The regular public schools have less than $500 each to create brochures and fliers; the charter firm with which they compete has a marketing budget of $325,000. That’s not fair.
We have seen stories about non-profit entrepreneurs who are paid $400,000 a year or more to run charters for 1,000 children. That’s more than the Chancellor of the New York City schools is paid, and more than the U.S. Secretary of Education. That’s not right. The New York Daily News reports today that charter schools, unlike other public schools, are not subject to public audits or to rules prohibiting nepotism and conflicts of interest by their board members or staff. That’s not right.
The Legislature must insist that charters act like public institutions and that they are fiscally transparent and accountable.
For Diane's gall in pushing for more oversight, she was bullied by Sen. Craig Johnson, Democrat from Nassau County, (picture to the right) who is the industry's main supporter in the Legislature, despite the fact that he has not one charter school in his district. Why? Could it be because he receives $65,000 a year in contributions from the charter school lobby?


As it happens, Diane Ravitch is the keynote speaker at the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association for its 50th anniversary dinner on June 1. Knowing Diane as I do, I would guess that Sen. Craig Johnson has not heard the last about his insistence on foisting more unregulated charter schools on New York City, which the parents and school boards in Nassau County would vehemently oppose if they were inserted into their own communities.


Anonymous said...

Diane is the wisest,most fearless, forthright and moral thinker in American education in recent memory. She is the most formidable, and blessedly lethal foe of ignorance and demagogy. Nobody is in her class, though I am in her "army."

Anonymous said...

Me too! Diane is truly awesome! I have never seen so much demagoguery as that being spewed by the mayor and his minions. I also applaud Perkins for sticking his neck out and actually doing his job. He could get on the Charter school bandwagon and leave the many kids who do not make it into these schools to the wolves. Instead he is putting his job on the line to protect the people in his district.