Governor Bill Lee is pushing aggressively to privatize Tennessee schools — both by creating a new, unaccountable voucher scheme and by expanding the reach of charter schools in our state.
This story out of California should give policymakers pause as they explore the possibility of more charter schools across the state, even in districts where the local school board is not consulted.
Here’s a quick summary:
“The warning signs appeared soon after Denise Kawamoto accepted a job at Today’s Fresh Start Charter School in South Los Angeles. Though she was fresh out of college, she was pretty sure it wasn’t normal for the school to churn so quickly through teachers or to mount surveillance cameras in each classroom. Old computers were lying around, but the campus had no internet access. Pay was low and supplies scarce — she wasn’t given books for her students. She struggled to reconcile the school’s conditions with what little she knew about its wealthy founders, Clark and Jeanette Parker of Beverly Hills. The Parkers have cast themselves as selfless philanthropists, telling the California Board of Education that they have ‘devoted all of our lives to the education of other people’s children, committed many millions of our own dollars directly to that particular purpose, with no gain directly to us.’ But the couple have, in fact, made millions from their charter schools. Financial records show the Parkers’ schools have paid more than $800,000 annually to rent buildings the couple own. The charters have contracted out services to the Parkers’ nonprofits and companies and paid Clark Parker generous consulting fees, all with taxpayer money, a Times investigation found. How the Parkers have stayed in business, surviving years of allegations of financial and academic wrongdoing, illustrates glaring flaws in the way California oversees its growing number of charter schools. Many of the people responsible for regulating the couple’s schools, including school board members and state elected officials, had accepted thousands of dollars from the Parkers in campaign contributions.”
This is exactly the type of abuse of the system that could be on the way to the Volunteer State if Lee’s proposals become law. Key votes are coming in the next few weeks. Stay tuned …
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport
Your support – a one-time or monthly contribution — makes reporting education news possible.