New York charter schools try to avoid 'transparency' and real accountability

While Chicago politicians move to further destroy public education in Chicago, in New York some politicians are taking a closer look at the charter schools and demanding that they provide the public with more than just marketing claims and carefully juked statistics. A major clash took place on April 21, 2010 at a hearing on charter schools in New York City, as the New York Daily News reported (below):

Charter school champions, critics clash at volatile public hearing on oversight methods, BY MEREDITH KOLODNER AND RACHEL MONAHAN DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS (Thursday, April 22nd 2010, 3:50 PM)

New York State Senate hearing on Charter Schools at 250 Broadway held by Senator Bill Perkins.

Charter school supporters and critics clashed Thursday at a volatile public hearing over whether the publicly funded, privately run schools need more oversight.

"For our children to have a bright future, we must shine a light on the operations of charter and public schools alike," said State Sen. Bill Perkins, who chaired the hearing of the Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.

As charter advocates praised the institutions, critics argued the schools — especially those run by for-profit companies or offering top dollar salaries to executives — need more restrictions.

"Much of the debate in recent months has been fixated on increasing the charter cap," said Teachers Union President Michael Mulgrew.

"It's a discussion worth having, but not before we take steps to reform the charter school industry and ensure that it properly serves kids and their communities."

But New York Charter Schools Association Policy Director Peter Murphy, waiting his turn to testify, called the charter schools the "most accountable entities in the Western hemisphere."

Outside the hearing, pro charter protestors took aim at the teachers union with chants of "UFT get out of the way."

"We need parent choice. Our district schools couldn't get any worse. What we're trying to do is open up more opportunities," said Sabrina Williams, 52, whose daughter attends fourth grade at Harlem Success Academy I. "Teachers have been letting down children in our neighborhood for decades."

But teachers and even a few charter parent supported the Perkins hearing.

"We as charter parents want more transparency and accountability," said Mariama Sanoh, of Coney Island, who has three children at Ross Global Academy Charter School and is a member of NYC Charter Parent Association. "If you're taking public money, there needs to be public accountability."

Charter school champions, critics clash at volatile public hearing on oversight methods 


April 24, 2010 at 2:38 PM

By: Jim Vail

Charters Need More Regulation

State Teachers’ Union Urges More Oversight of Charters


Published: April 22, 2010

A Buffalo charter school, run by a for-profit company, received $7.2 million in taxpayer money last year to educate about 500 elementary and middle school students.

But at the end of the year, the audit it submitted to the state listed its expenses only in broad brushstrokes, including $1.3 million in rent for a building the company owned, $976,000 for executive administration and $361,000 in professional fees.

Officials from the New York State teachers’ union, testifying at a crowded State Senate hearing on Thursday, raised the case of the school, Buffalo United, as an example of what it said was wrong with the oversight of charter schools throughout the state. The union said the case supported its view that no new charter schools should be authorized unless oversight is strengthened.

“How much is profit?” asked Andrew Pallotta, the executive vice president of New York State United Teachers. “There is truly too much we don’t know and can’t know.”

The union’s concerns fell on mostly friendly ears at the all-day hearing, which had been called by Senator Bill Perkins of Harlem, an outspoken critic of the charter school movement. Teachers’ unions have generally opposed charter schools, which tend not to be unionized.

On Thursday, the state union listed allegations against charter schools that included conflict of interest and outright theft. Brooklyn Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, it said, had acquired, as a subsidiary, a bridal shop linked to the president of the school’s board. A state comptroller’s audit of a second Buffalo charter school, Western New York Maritime, found that big-screen televisions and computer equipment had been sent to the personal addresses of employees, the union said.

Officials responsible for authorizing and overseeing charter schools said there was room for more accountability and transparency from charter schools, but they said that the controls were already robust.

“It is good that the bad actors have come to light,” said John B. King Jr., the senior deputy commissioner of the state Education Department. “I actually think that there is a lot of common ground here, and if we create the right conversation, there is room to both improve charters and increase the number.”

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