Still Asleep

Jeff Bryant offers some insight into a new report detailing the significant failures of a federal program designed to boost charter schools. I wrote earlier this week about the Tennessee-specific cases. Here’s a quick summary of Bryant’s analysis:

When members of Congress repeatedly confronted U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about a study finding the federal government’s charter school grant program had wasted an estimated $1 billion on schools that had never opened or opened and quickly closed, she dismissed the findings and accused the report authors of having a “political agenda against charter schools.” On December 10, the same authors issued a more detailed examination of waste in the government’s charter grant program, and concluded the $1 billion figure was indeed likely not correct: it was an underestimate. This report, Still Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Results in a Pileup of Fraud and Waste by the Network for Public Education (NPE), calculates approximately $1.17 billion in federal funding has been spent on charters that either never opened or that opened and have since shut down. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the four front-runners in the race, has proposed “halting the use of public funds to underwrite new charter schools.” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, another front-runner, has pledged to, if elected, “eliminate” the federal charter school grant program and “end federal funding for the expansion of charter schools.” Warren in particular has been taking the brunt of the pushback from charter supporters, who contend her call for ending the federal grant program for charter schools is “threatening the freedom” charters enjoy.


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