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Alabama Charter School Opponents - Stop The Silly Ads & Focus On These Issues

by: countrycat

Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 08:44:05 AM CDT


Eric Fleischauer's column in yesterday's Decatur Daily is a must-read for anyone following the push for charter schools in Alabama.  As many of us suspected, HB451 (sponsored by Rep. Phil Williams) is less a "reform" than yet another corporate giveaway program.  Alabama education

I urge you to read the entire column and read the bill that's posted at OpenBama.org.  But here are a few nuggets:

Charter Bill Has Problems:

HB 541 authorizes charter schools to borrow money and issue bonds. If they go out of business while in debt — as many in the nation have — the state is stuck paying the creditors. "The Legislature finds that the state has a moral obligation to repay any bonds issued by a public charter school," according to HB 541.
[...]
While HB 541 only allows nonprofit organizations to create charter schools, it provides plenty of room for abuse.
In districts with a single low-performing school, though, the decision is made by a state agency called the Charter School Application Review Council. Its nine members are appointed, not elected, with the governor's five appointees having control. Remarkably, each of the members of the council "shall have demonstrated ... commitment to charter schooling."
[...]
A nonprofit organization can, under HB 541, pay a private company to take over management and operations of the charter school. Private companies can give unlimited gifts to the charter school. The likelihood is high that the nonprofit organization that creates the school will be a mere shell of the for-profit company that runs it.

Understand that this bill has some high-powered support.  Speaker of the House (and former Alabama GOP chair) Mike Hubbard is a co-sponsor.  So we have to assume that that Alabama GOP super-majority in the legislature is on board and happy to:

  • Pass charter school debts along to taxpayers - at a time when some in state government question whether PACT contract holders have an actual contract that should be fulfilled.
  • Have the governor's hand-picked charter school proponents control the governing board.
  • Set up a system that lets corporate interests hide behind non-profits, suck up as much money as possible, then cut and run - leaving taxpayers holding the bill.

There is so much bad stuff in HB541 that you have to wonder why opponents are using silly tactics like fake robocalls and anti-Obama Facebook ads to fight charter schools.

The truth about the bill is even worse.

btw... if you haven't read Eric Fleischauer's blog - Mile304.com - it's certainly worth your time.

[One final addendum ... If you want to learn more about the charter school bill, the Over the Mountain Dems are sponsoring a panel discussion on Tuesday, April 17 at 6:30 PM in the Linn-Henley Lecture Hall at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Panelists will be:

  • Emily Schultz, Alabama Education Policy Director;
  • Craig Witherspoon, Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools;
  • Yvette Richardson, State Board of Education, District 4;
  • Sally Howell, Executive Director of the Alabama Association of School Boards;
  • Patricia Todd, Representative for House District 54.
This bill is almost certain to pass, come find out what we're getting into. - mooncat]
countrycat :: Alabama Charter School Opponents - Stop The Silly Ads & Focus On These Issues
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Ask PACT parents what the state's "moral obligation" is worth (4.00 / 1)

It may turn out that even the state of Alabama's legal obligations aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Thanks for posting this ... I was just about to post a link to Fleischauer's very informative article when I saw you had already done it.

This bill is almost certain to pass because of the GOP supermajority in both houses of the Alabama Leg. There may be an opportunity for some amendments to make the charter law more likely to benefit students than otherwise, but I think we also need to be making plans to make the best of what the Leg. sticks us with.  Supporters of public schools need to learn what is in this law and see if there are ways to implement charters to benefit at risk students.  Who says charter schools have to end up as Republican giveaways to corporations? 

Is it possible for a progressive group to start a charter school to serve, say, impoverished students in inner city Birmingham?  If we have to work with what Republicans give us, let's learn the rules and use them to whatever advantage we can.



Work harder and work smarter!

on our FB discussion (4.00 / 1)

someone asked why we're focusing on the money & the bill instead of whether charter schools are a good idea.

Which is a great question.  I've been reading a good bit about charter schools and doing research, but the fact is that the GOP legislative super-majority is hell-bent on passing some sort of charter school bill.

We can talk all we want about whether charters are a good idea, but we know already that Hubbard & his folks don't care about consequences when they pass bills.  The best we can do at this point is make sure the people know just how pork-laden this bill is.

Somebody's going to profit from the corruption that the legislation seems to invite and even welcome.  And it's pretty certain that the beneficiaries won't be the children in our schools.



"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."  - John Kenneth Galbraith




[ Parent ]
This will blow up in Hubbard's face. (4.00 / 2)

You cannot overstate the extent to which the rural heartland of north Alabama depends on their local school systems for not only student advancement but local jobs. In these communities, teaching - or driving a bus or working in the lunchroom - provides on of the few opportunities for middle class employment with benefits. Most of these people (and their families, and their extended families) are GOP voters. They are already smarting over the attacks on their benefits, but they might be able to deal with that because everyone is hurting.

But they - and their families - will vigorously oppose any efforts to take money from the schools they send their kids to and give it to new schools that they don't like. Charter schools are popular in two types of places: first, in inner cities with legitimately failing schools where largely minority parents have little or no loyalty to a particular school and want any opportunity to improve their kids' opportunities; second, areas with strong racial divides where white parents want governement money to send their kids to segregation academies.

Hubbard comes from a part of the state where the second type of charter school supporter is prevalent. Montgomery is an area where the second type of charter school supporter is prevalent. But the Republican majority in the state house and senate was delivered by voters in what I call the "White Belt," or the 4th Congressional District. Places like Walker, Dekalb, Cullman county. These folks live and die with their local public schools. They root for their local high school teams, they send their kids to their alma maters. These people DO NOT WANT CHARTER SCHOOLS. They want to make their alma maters better. Anything that takes money from their schools and sends it to a private academy will instill a full scale revolt.

Do not be surprised to discover that this bill fails to pass because GOP reps and senators from that region of the state abandon the charter bill cause. 



[ Parent ]
I hope you're right (4.00 / 1)

Mike Hubbard deserves a rebellion in his ranks over this one.

I don't think all charter schools have to be a disaster and I think there may be a place for a carefully constructed charter school law in Alabama.  This is not it.



Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
Imagine this scenario... (4.00 / 1)

Dekalb County BOE will not support charter school. Dekalb County has one "failing school," but even that failing school's parents want the school to improve, not to get a new school. Some for-profit appeals to the state charter board. Gets a charter school. Now, that charter is only going to serve a small portion of the Dekalb population, but the school is going to lose money because of it AND the school will have unfunded mandate to pay for charter school special needs and public transport. Now, all of Dekalb county's non-charter parents are going to be pitted against Dekalb's charter parents. The BOE is powerless to control the school. The whole thing just seems like a recipe for disaster to me.

I don't really see the need for charters, which should really be called contractor schools, anywhere. I see the need for a lot more innovative public schools like LAMP or ASFA or ASMS or JeffCo IB or Horizon. I see the need for improving the community schools we have and that doesn't just mean money. But I really don't see how contractor schools run by private companies with no oversight are going to bring about benefits anymore than contracting out prisons or military support has.



[ Parent ]
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