Get this. In some states, charter school operators can purchase school buildings from public school districts... using taxpayer money. That's right. The public pays twice for a building it no longer owns.
This scheme and many others are detailed in the National Education Policy Center's new research brief on charter school policies. Through a study of policies from across the country, Bruce Baker and Gary Miron reveal how many charter operators use existing laws to profit from the privatization of public assets.
Their conclusion: many current policies allow new actors into public education who skim profits from the system, pocketing money that might otherwise be spent on direct services for children.
These policies have serious costs. In Florida for example, recent analysis by the Associated Press found that now-closed charter schools in 30 school districts had received more than $70 million in taxpayer money for capital needs. The state has since recovered only $133,000 of those funds.
Where does the money go? On top of complex real estate deals, charter school operators often 'save' money by cutting teacher pay, hiring inexperienced school staff, and avoiding children with disabilities. These 'savings' are added to executive salaries rather than invested in serving all children and providing solid middle class jobs for teachers and staff.
The charter school growth industry wants to compete directly with traditional public schools, in some places creating a two or even three-tiered education system.
We need great schools for all children -- not just for some. Schools owned by us, not private companies. Let's make sure every dollar we spend on education is spent on education, not skimmed off by real estate investors or to pay high-priced management fees.