Web of Secrecy Surrounds Federal Half-a-Billion Handout to Charter Schools
The US Department of Education is poised to spend half a billion dollars to help create new charter schools, while the public is being kept in the dark about which states have applied for the lucrative grants, and what their actual track records are when it comes to preventing fraud and misuse.
Already the federal government has spent $3.3 billion in American tax dollars under the Charter Schools Program (CSP), as tallied by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
But the government has done so without requiring any accountability from the states and schools that receive the money, as CMD revealed earlier this year.
Insiders Deliberate Far From the Public Eye
The Department of Education is currently deciding what states to award $116 million this year, and more than half a billion during the five-year grant cycle.
So who is in the running and what are their track records?
Which states have applied for a grant designed to eviscerate the public school system in the name of "flexibility?" (CMD's review of state applications and reviewers' comments from the previous grant cycle exposed "flexibility" as a term of art used by the industry for state laws that allow charter schools to: operate independently from locally elected school boards, employ people to teach without adequate training or certification, and avoid collective bargaining that helps ensure that teacher-student ratios are good so that each kid gets the attention he or she deserves.)
There is no way of knowing.
The US Department of Education has repeatedly refused to honor a CMD request under the Freedom of Information Act for the grant applications, even though public information about which states have applied would not chill deliberation and might even help better assess which applicants should receive federal money.
The agency has even declined to provide a list with states that have applied:
"We cannot release a list of states that have applied while it is in the midst of competition."
The upshot of this reticence is that states will land grants - possibly to the tune of a hundred million dollars or more in some cases - all at the discretion of charter school interests contracted to evaluate the applications, but without any input from ordinary citizens and advocates concerned about public schools and troubled by charter school secrecy and fraud.
But, if people in a state know that a state is applying they can weigh in so that the agency is not just hearing from an applicant who wants the money, regardless of the history of fraud and waste in that state.
More common core implementation planning?
...behind closed doors.
What ever happened to transparency!