Charter school regulation needed for students to grow

Antoinette Lobello, Perspective Editor

Betsy DeVos, the thorn in public school’s side, was confirmed by the Senate in a 51-50 vote as Secretary of Education, with the extra vote coming down from Vice President Mike Pence as the Senate was deadlocked when voting.

Her nomination and confirmation hearings were one of great shock given her lack of knowledge on federal laws on education, and the fact she has donated almost $200 million to the GOP. But, none the less, she was confirmed as Secretary of Education.

As the Secretary of Education she helps set the agenda for the administration for education, meaning she is the mouthpiece for education from the administration.

One of the ideas both Devos and President Donald Trump have promised is to increase school choice when it comes to a parent having choices on where to send their students.

“That’s why I want every single disadvantaged child in America, no matter what their background or where they live, to have a choice about where they go to school,” Trump said at a Parent-Teacher Conference Listening Session on Feb 14.

School choice is where a parent has other options on where to send their student outside of the traditional district school where most kids are sent.

One of these choices are charter schools, something DeVos and her husband have rallied for in her home state of Michigan. A charter school is similar to a public school in it is taxpayer funded, but different in that a charter school does not have to follow the rules and regulations put in place for public schools.

And if a charter school doesn’t perform well, it can be shut down.

Charter schools, while in some cases can help a student’s potential, are far too often negatively impacting the students they teach, and should not be expanded until regulations are put in place to monitor charter schools.

Across the country there are stories coming out of how founders or employees from charter schools are being arrested for stealing thousands to millions of dollars from the school for personal use. One charter school superintendent, Lisa Hamm of Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, took a plea deal in her involvement with using money from the school as her own personal funds.

Remember, charter schools are taxpayer funded, meaning the money they are stealing is money someone paid in taxes.

In July of 2015, The Center for Popular Democracy and Action Now released a study they had done of Illinois charter schools tilted, “Risking Public Money: Illinois Charter School Fraud” in which they found shocking data on fraud in Illinois charter schools.

“To date, $13.1 million in fraud by charter school officials has been uncovered in Illinois,” stated in the study. “Because of the lack of transparency and necessary oversight, total fraud is estimated at $27.7 million in 2014 alone.”

And this is just Illinois—who knows how much taxpayer money is stolen from charter school across the country.

There are many cases when charter schools close down in the middle of the school year. For example, Acclaim Academy in Orange County shut down in the middle of the school year without notifying parents of the school’s closure. So not only did students lose their school, their parents weren’t prepared for them to go to another school.

This is a huge problem because not knowing if your school is going to be open the next day will not help anyone’s education. And comparing schools to a business will not help anyone.

“This isn’t just a regular business,” Krystal Castellano, former charter school teacher said in an interview with the Sun Sentinel. “This isn’t a restaurant that you just open up, you serve your food, people don’t like it, you close it and you move on. This is education. This is students getting left in the middle of the year without a school to go to.”

However, there are a few charter schools which have really helped the students who go there. At Chicago’s Urban Prep Charter Academy, an all-male, predominantly black charter school, has had 100 percent of their students go on to a four year college or university since 2010. This kind of percent cannot be matched anywhere.

But not all charter schools have this kind of success or praise. And that is a problem. If charter schools are meant to take the place of a traditional public school and offer more to all students, then there needs to be something in place to make it happen.

So there needs to be a better system in place so that not just anyone can open a charter school. Because if a charter school is able to close down without having been open for a year or two, that highlights a massive problem in the screening for charters.

Whether we place a pseudo school board in place to make sure that schools don’t close or even create a federal department just to make sure all charter schools are able to run successfully, something needs to be done.

Charter schools only work if they are regulated, and we don’t have the system in place. The Trump administration has already stated their interest in grants to states to increase school choice. These changes need to happen before thousands of students are left without a school because they closed down without notice.