The Bad and the Ugly of Charter Schools

By Curtis Kimbrell

Charter schools have been around for decades, but are now being discussed more and more in the educational and political space, due to the current administration. They can be described as “schools of choice,” but it’s becoming more and more clear that this isn’t the case. For the purpose of this particular piece, I want to focus on Clark County School District, located in the Las Vegas, NV area. Charter schools are absorbing disproportionate funds intended for the use of public schools, causing a decline in federal and state funding applied towards at-risk public schools within CCSD.  

As part of Clark County School District’s reevaluation, the school district categorized their underachieving schools into a sub group named Achievement School District, which is not a separate school district, but is labeled with the title anyway. Their objective, a rapid rejuvenation of performance outcomes, does not focus on the wellbeing of students’, but on the transition of public education’s transformation towards implementation of charter schools, and of its duties towards the community. Schools eligible for ASD status, according to doe.nv.gov, must remain in the ASD for no less than six years; a time allocated for principals to evoke dramatic changes in their school while satisfying continual assessments of increased performance across multiple measures conducted by ASD staff members. An ASD staff member’s primary duty is to match ASD schools with high-quality charter management organizations and to ensure a successful transition.

If a school miraculously raises performance standards across the board, then the school can remain in the ASD, convert to a charter school anyway, or return to traditional public school status; a decision left to the local principal alone. ASD requires a minimum number of traditional public schools to be transferred into the State-Sponsored Charter Schools Authority, which is given the status of a traditional public school district, a distinction the ASD is lacking. Since the worst schools are transferred out of the school district, a new set of yearly standards contrived from comparisons to the newly designated lowest achieving schools generate newly eligible schools, who were not qualified based on previously emplaced standards, for acquisitions by charter school management companies. Let us discuss the effects charter schools create with public funding and standards.

Last year, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported Nevada receiving approximately $3.8 million in funding from the federal government to apply towards underperforming schools. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported a month later that Nevada’s Department of Education allocated an estimated amount of $3.2 million to existing and potential Charter Schools. These potential charter school management companies, Celerity Schools of Nevada and Futuro Academy, will receive $854,000 and $822,000 to assist with startup costs. The potential charter schools, while absorbing a disproportionate amount of funding, applied for admittance to the ASD, which will result in a shift in priority for public fund allocation and overall standards the ASD will require of already struggling traditional public schools. On May 11, 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported California’s State Board of Education voted unanimously to close down two Celerity charter schools due to the corrupt nature of Celerity’s board members. Celerity is an education management company based out of Los Angeles, but due to the school district sanctuary created for charter schools by Nevada’s Department of Education, they became eligible for Nevada funding because legally, they are considered members of the community with a potential tie to the area.

With an understanding of the legal grey areas charter schools exploit, I wanted to discuss issues with the sociological problems inherently built into the charter school transition and ASD policies. Freedom of choice does not realistically exist for everyone because, slamnv.org reported that charter schools are not required to offer special education courses designed for mentally handicapped students, and parents of these students will be forced to enroll their student in a specific school which does offer the program. Ecs.force informs us that under Nevada law, charter schools are not required to offer transportation; which puts families without vehicles at a disadvantage because better schools may not be located in their neighborhood, and due to the wide urban setting of Las Vegas, certain schools will be impossible for them to reach.  

Using the previous information, single parents or parents with multiple jobs will be disadvantaged because they may simply not have the time to ensure their child’s arrival at school and make it to their job on time, forcing parents to make a decision to send their child to a better school further away, or potentially endanger their source of income. Decisions for charter school eligibility are not solely contrived from school performance, but also the neighborhood they are located in, which encompasses multiple variables such as income level, racial demographics, and crime levels. The policy goals of the ASD will be achieved while subjecting honest, hardworking citizens to alienation and discrimination. Children, who cannot control the circumstances of their birth, will be forced into schools that are not members of traditional public school districts; with their own policy, agenda, and expectations that differ from the school district they were originally a part of, this will intentionally create inequality among students born with the right as an American, to dignity and an equal education regardless of the status of their birth.

The takeover of public schools by charter school organizations will result in the consequences of moving schools into a separate school district run with private industry influences, and the unintentional consequences of alienating and discriminating disadvantaged segments of the population, making life harder and leaving them further behind than their fellow citizens.

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