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Revelations about bogus academy prove charter schools need better oversight

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A lot of people in the Donald Trump administration had qualifications so questionable that they had us wondering, “What are they doing there?” That question was especially loud when it came to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In case you don’t recall, DeVos had no background whatsoever in education and no real concept of what her department was supposed to do. In an administration that didn’t even begin to meet Trump’s promise of having “the best people,” DeVos was certainly one of the worst.

The closest thing she had to a qualification for the post was her past as a champion for charter schools. Specifically, her work with Michigan’s charter school system—an enterprise that, according to those on the ground in Michigan, is an unmitigated disaster. Back in 2016, Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson raked DeVos over the coals for creating a system of charter schools where woefully inadequate performance actually gets rewarded. Henderson also revealed that for all their hype, charter schools in Detroit do only marginally better than their traditional public counterparts. Granted, DeVos didn’t create the system—Clinton, Bush, and Obama all supported charter schools before Trump, so that says something. However, some questionable examples have put charter schools under even more of a microscope.

So what are charter schools, anyway?

About 3 million children—a large share being brown (33%) and Black (26%)—in 43 states and Washington, D.C., attend charter schools, which are tuition-free, publicly funded, and independently run. The specter of poorly performing schools remaining in existence or how the GOP positions it as “school choice” and a savior for poorly managed districts couldn’t be further from the original concept of charter schools. In return for being freed from the rules and regulations of a traditional public school, charter schools are supposed to be held to a set of standards delineated in their charter. That charter is a legally binding contract, subject to review every three to five years. Apparently DeVos missed that part when pushing for charter schools in Michigan, particularly in Detroit. After all, poorly performing schools are supposed to be on the chopping block.

So where does the money come from? Charter schools receive funding based on how many students are enrolled and they also get grants from the federal government. But they can also raise money through private funding, and philanthropy has been a big boost in creating some charter schools, especially in urban areas for lower-income students like LeBron James’ I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, which has shown promise. Other big funders have been the family of Sam Walton, who founded Walmart; Bill and Melinda Gates; Netflix founder Reed Hastings; Michael Bloomberg; and of course, DeVos.

DeVos hoped to use her post to steer more money to religious schools while creating more charter schools. Until this summer, the dumpster fire that is Detroit’s charter school system was the most searing indictment of her misplaced vision. But it recently got upstaged by a bogus school in neighboring Ohio. What makes it even worse is that it was glaringly obvious that this school was bogus—and it took a football game for this school to be exposed.

A major mishap on ESPN

On Aug. 29, Bishop Sycamore, a little-known team from Columbus, Ohio, took the field for a nationally televised game on ESPN against one of the most powerful high school teams in the country, IMG Academy. Much of the coverage about the game revolved around a bombshell revelation in the second quarter by ESPN’s own announcers: Bishop Sycamore’s claims to have a roster full of Division I recruits could not be verified. Indeed, this game turned out to be so much of a mismatch that announcers Amish Shiroff and Tom Luginbill were openly concerned about the safety of the Bishop Sycamore players.

We have since learned that Bishop Sycamore had problems that made its deceit of ESPN look minor-league. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Bishop Sycamore shared an address with an athletic complex in northeast Columbus. A worker at the facility recalled seeing the team practice, but couldn’t recall any classes being held there.

The Dispatch........

© Daily Kos

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