Parent Horror Stories from BASIS: Corporate Charter Hurting Children?

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Today I am blogging about two parent horror stories from BASIS. Let me just warn you, after hearing parents talk about what allegedly happened to their children at BASIS, you will likely be in a surly mood learning about this corporate (quasi-for profit) charter chain. The BASIS corporate charter chain is now a very unfavorite of mine. Who/What is BASIS? Wikipedia describes the BASIS corporate charter schools:

BASIS Schools, Inc. is an Arizona charter school operator. It operates eight schools in Arizona and one in the District of Columbia….BASIS recently announced plans to add three more schools for the 2013-2014 year: one in Ahwatukee, one in San Antonio, Texas, and a new K-4 program near their original location in Tucson.

I first blogged about BASIS in the post What BASIS?: Nepotism and aggrandizement in charters? (One of the interesting things about the first BASIS post is that 50-100 people read that post each day) I am always curious where that traffic is coming from. At the time, I included Charter School Scandals uncovered about BASIS:

The schools are the brainchild of Michael and Olga Block, who envisioned a college-prep curriculum that would rival the best countries. The first school opened in 1998 in Tucson. A second followed in 2003 in Scottsdale.

For years, the Blocks worked for and were paid by the non-profit schools. Michael was the chief operating officer and treasurer, Olga the chief executive officer.

The Blocks later formed a separate, for-profit company and in 2009 signed a service agreement with the non-profit that provides Basis’ six schools with most everything they need to operate: school directors, teachers, accounting, technology, human resources, public relations and Michael and Olga Block…

Basis Inc. denied a request from The Arizona Republic to review a copy of its agreement with the Blocks’ company.

The state also is limited in what it can find out about management companies. The state charter board can audit only the charter school, not the private company hired to run the school’s operations…

A few of the Blocks’ relatives also received money for work performed for the schools, including a relative who performed accounting services for the schools in the Czech Republic, as recently as fiscal 2009.

The tax returns no longer include these details because the Blocks work for the privately held company, not the non-profit. Michael Block said the company is a private business and declined to discuss salaries or whether family members are performing work for the schools…

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So that is some quick background on BASIS. Gene Glass, Arizona State professor emeritus, recently posted A Basis Schools Horror Story. In this post a parent described the situation at BASIS for her child. A quick summary:

Background and Introduction to BASIS San Antonio: “When we learned about BASIS San Antonio, it sounded too good to be true.”

The Education: “Throughout the school year, he gave up all extracurricular activities in order to complete the homework requirements”

Challenges: “According to children attending the school, the students were kind, respectful and courteous but the parents were bullies to each other and the students. By the end of the school year, mandatory detention for any and all infractions was developed and highly enforced with no oversight by the Head of School.”

Charter Schools Have No Nurse: “Because there was no nurse and no nurse’s station, when our son became extremely ill at school, he was sent to the boy’s bathroom and was unsupervised by an adult for over 45 minutes while young boys using the restroom walked in and out of the restroom. When I arrived at the school, he was lying on his backpack under the urinals in the boy’s bathroom… When I posted the facts of what happened to our son on the school Facebook page in order to work with other parents to discuss Best Practices at other charter schools and to discuss solutions, over 75 personal threatening comments from other parents were posted in response to my comment asking to work together for a positive solution comment.”

Unsafe Conditions: “Students at BASIS would frequently steal each others lunches, backpacks, cell phones and other personal property with no direction from the administration of the school.”

Charter Schools Have No Lunch Program: “There is no lunch program at charter schools. My son had his lunch stolen from his backpack by another student. The students are not allowed to use the phone at the school and my son went an entire day without eating food. He snuck a crust of another student’s pizza out of the garbage can to sustain himself during the day.”

Lack of Governance: “I contacted Victoria Rico, the Chairman of the George Brackenridge Foundation. I offered to help the school obtain access to a nurse at no cost, help establish collaboration with local hospital systems and help obtain grants to help fund, the result was very positive. A meeting with the CEO of the Texas BASIS Schools was scheduled. The result of the meeting with the CEO was that there was no interest on the part of BASIS San Antonio to collaborate with the community nor add infrastructure that was not required. Dan Neinhauser, CEO of BTX (Basis Texas)”

Lack of Nurturing and Compassion: “We have a 22 year old daughter with a terminal illness. I emailed all of our son’s teachers/administrators to let them know that our son may need additional support and at times could be sad due to the situation at home. Not one teacher or administrator communicated back. I called and left messages with all teachers. No calls were returned. I contacted Mr. Ross, new Assistant Head of School and he claimed that he received the email but he was transitioning into his new role and just forgot to contact us.”

Mandatory Detention: “A note came home stating that BASIS would be implementing a mandatory detention for students who were late to class and unprepared in any way. The first week, my son received mandatory detention for forgetting a dry erase marker in Algebra, for not completing three problems out of 180 required Algebra problems and forgetting a poem in English Class.”

The End of BASIS for our Son: “On May 6th, 2014, I was called by Mr. Ross, Assistant Head of School. He was Dr. Abby Hasberry’s replacement, (she was hired to be the Head of School for the new BASIS North Campus). My son was found alive yet mentally nonresponsive sitting on the floor under an Art Table. Upon arriving at the school, I immediately knew that he needed mental health support. I took him to Clarity Child Guidance Center. Upon evaluating my son, the diagnosis was extreme depression, anxiety disorder and suicidal thoughts to harm himself. The hospital / psychiatrist medical opinion, they believed that our son was suffering from PTSD from the experiences at the school due to the rigorous educational requirements coupled with the mandatory detention had become a source of terror for him. Our son is now a patient at Clarity Child Guidance Center. He spent time inpatient at the hospital and is now receiving day program outpatient treatment at a cost of $835 per day inpatient and $125 per day outpatient.”

Terror – Not an Isolated Experience: “I contacted Victoria Rico at the George Brackenridge Foundation and she asked if she could help “make it right” for our family. She offered to help find another school for him to attend. The damage has been done. We feel comfort and extreme sadness to learn that our son’s experience at BASIS San Antonio is not an isolated experience. When we took our son to Clarity Child Guidance Center both the psychiatrist and counselor both told us that other children had been seen inpatient and outpatient at the facility and had been at BASIS San Antonio, same symptoms, same story.”

The BASIS parent concluded,

We have no idea where to take our son for education at this point. But, we know that whatever decision we make that nurturing and compassion of a child must be the foremost important factor in the choice we make. Our son was terrorized at a high performance charter school and he is not the only one. This can not be the future of children in our community. We are publicly sharing our experiences because it should have never happened to our son. He was a victim and more importantly he is 12 years old. Children should be in a safe and nurturing environment. BASIS San Antonio is more of a concentration camp than a school for children.

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Oh, but there is more… now for an exclusive story to Cloaking Inequity from a BASIS parent. What you are about to read is unsolicited— as the parent came to Cloaking Inequity with her concerns after the BASIS was non-responsive to her in the manner that she felt was appropriate.

The beginning of the 2013-2014 school year for my child was the start of a new educational and social endeavor at the newly founded Basis San Antonio charter school. As the year comes to a close, my child is not the only one reflecting on what he learned this year. As a parent, I am also reflecting on what I have learned about my child’s new school, and its harsh educational climate. I learned that although Basis claims to accept children of all races, ethnicities, and disabilities, they are not culturally sensitive nor equipped to assist children with disabilities. I learned that although the United States of America has established laws protecting the civil rights of children with disabilities, my protection is limited to what I can afford to pay for legal counsel and defense. I learned that Basis will “woo” potential students and parents with false promises. More concerning, I learned that Basis San Antonio will open another school next school year.

Our story at Basis San Antonio began much like a romantic tale, with interest, intrigue, and hope for the future. We could not resist the Basis appeal with all its promises and presumed prestige. So, we took the plunge and enrolled our 6 grade child at Basis San Antonio in the fall of 2013. There was a courting period, including open houses, informational sessions, and campus tours. Next, there were the promises of endless opportunities, a world class facility, an exciting curriculum, top notch educators, and more. These vows were seemingly executed the first week of school, when teachers were literally opening car doors for students at the curb. The staff collectively appeared friendly, understanding, and willing to help my child, who has a disability that affects his academic performance.

As a parent, I was “wooed” by Basis. We were sure that Basis was the “one” for us – the school that would accept all children regardless of color, creed, or impairment. Who wouldn’t fall in love with this charter school initially? Who would have thought our year would end with a hearing, and a desperate search for legal counsel?

Basis San Antonio has a Special Education Director, who held a meeting and created a 504 Accommodation Plan for my child in the fall of 2013. Section 504 is an amendment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 law that prohibits the discrimination on the basis of disability. Much to my surprise, drawing up a 504 Accommodation Plan was the extent of the service we got from Basis. There were no plans implemented or followed up on throughout the fall months. The spring was no different. The evidence first came when I saw my child’s failing grades. Basis ignored my steady emails day after day, and week after week. With every failing quiz, test, and progress report, I sent my concerns to the Special Education Director, Head of School, and teachers, which were met with no reply, dismissive attitude, or disciplinary action against my child. It was clear that the honeymoon was over.

As failing grades became the norm for my child, my e-mails to the school staff and administration began to accumulate. It was January and still no response from the Basis Administration. It was difficult to watch my child struggle with his disability, and watch his self-esteem plummet. Knowing that pre-comprehension exams were quickly approaching, I continued writing e-mails with specific concerns about my child’s 504 testing accommodations for the exams.  With still no response from Basis, I contacted my child’s doctor with hopes that a change in medication would help him cope with the educational demands.

The lack of aid I received from Basis over e-mail correspondence was only met with deficient assistance face-to-face. January 16th, I attempted to pick up my child from Basis for a cardiologist appointment, they refused to release him because it was not the “right time,” and was against their policy. Confused, I coiled into a corner of the lobby and e-mailed the Head of School once more, this time to let her know I was being denied my child, and that he needed to be released to me. Seeing there was an apparent disconnect between Basis and I, I sent a subsequent e-mail to the Head of School explaining the scarce communication I had received regarding my child’s academic progress. In return, I never received a response from Head of School. On January 21st a Basis administrator contacted me to reiterate Basis’ release policy. I voiced my concerns about the failure to accommodate my child’s disability and the ability to take him to the doctor for alternative medication. She stated she would look into my child’s 504 Accommodation Plans and that she would contact me. This administrator never called me back.

I continued my barrage of emails February and March, addressed to the Head of School, Special Education Director, and teachers. Finally, after months of concerns, the Special Education Director agreed to meet with me. On March 5th, the director confirmed that the 504 accommodations were not being met and blamed my child, claiming he chose not to “participate.” She did not have a response as to why I was not informed about my child’s alleged failure to comply, or why no one responded to my continuous questions and concerns. She proceeded to inform me that my child performed poorly in his pre-comprehension exams. I requested an evaluation of my son’s 504 Accommodation Plan and a meeting with all his teachers. To increase parent-teacher communication and clarify assignments due, I proposed an alternate planner to the Basis communication journal “CJ”; the Special Education Director stated she would seek approval from the Head of School. On March 20th the Special Education Director responded by e-mail reporting the Head of School declined my request for an alternate planner to the Basis “CJ,” however, recommended a teacher change.

After my meeting with the Special Education Director, I scheduled Basis method of scheduling parent-teacher conferences/15 minute brief sessions with each of his eight teachers. On March 24th, I was scheduled to meet with my child’s algebra teacher at 7:00 am however after arriving 5 minutes late; she would not meet with me. To my disbelief and after months of e-mails, instead, I found myself meeting with the Head of School.

During our meeting, the Head of School informed me that my child’s algebra teacher did not feel comfortable meeting with me. I came prepared with information and an article about my child’s disability and with ideas of how I could help my child at home with hopes she could guide me. Instead, the Head of School stated she would be placing my child in 5th grade effective immediately, and that my child would be retained the following year if I choose to continue at Basis. She asked me numerous times why I wanted my child at Basis. When I stated my child wanted to attend Basis, she wanted to know why he wanted to attend Basis, to which I responded “who wouldn’t want to attend the ‘world’s best school’?” I asked why my child did not receive 504 accommodations, to which she responded she did not know, and that was not her responsibility. She denied ever receiving my numerous emails. I stated that it appeared unfair for Basis to fail my child after not assuring my child’s disability was accommodated as outlined at the beginning of the year.   I explained not providing accommodations is like not providing my child prescription eye glasses so he can read a book, this was an example that was given in a CHADD article. CHADD.org is an authority on my child’s disability, and recommended by my our doctor. Head of School emphatically disagreed with the article. I also requested a full Special Education Evaluation on the grounds that Basis stated my child is not functioning at the same pace as his peers.

Retaliation began after I asserted my child’s 504 rights; he was disciplined for actions related to his disability. I requested copies of the discipline referrals/reports requiring detention of my son; however Head of School stated they do not document when students are sent to the office or detention. Further retaliation, a 504 re-evaluation would be held without me as I was removed as a viable decision maker for my child’s academic planning. April 1st, Head of School, referred to me as a “guest” with regard to my participation in 504 planning meetings. There appeared to be no regard for my knowledge of my child’s academic, medical, social and emotional history. In a calm but eerie tone she stated if I did not like this, I could contact the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Head of School was unapologetic for the lack of 504 accommodations, concern for my child, and disregard for my parental rights.

After months of expressing my concerns for the lack of regard to my child’s disability, the 504 re-evaluation was conducted. Despite my protest on April 2, Head of School informed me that the meeting was held without me. I requested a copy of my procedural safeguards which was emailed to me and I followed the hearing procedure. April and May went by and the 504 accommodations still appeared ambiguous. During this time it appears the Special Education Director left Basis. May 21st, I met the new Special Education Director and all my child’s teachers all at once in a “staffing” who basically informed that my child still was not preforming well.   During this meeting, Head of School tried to convenience me that my child should have a choice in his accommodations to which I disagreed. May ended with little change to my child’s academic progress and teacher/administration apathy continued. Basis did hire an attorney to defend their position and a pre-hearing conference was held.

Along with their own attorney, Basis hired a “non-bias” attorney to serve as a hearing officer. Our hearing date is July 15, 2014. Seeing the enormity of the situation, I contacted Disability Rights, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, OCR, MALDEF, and other nonprofit agencies. I received letters of denial from these agencies, except MALDEF, who has not returned my calls. I am grateful to the Office of Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who responded by assisting me with a complaint to TEA. Currently, a response is pending from Congressman Joaquin Castro with hopes of reviewing our OCR complaint.

Essentially, I have to defend my child’s disability rights against two attorneys, who are well-versed in educational law. Its Basis attorney’s job to assure my child’s rights are denied, and that my parental rights are stripped. Are the events of this year tactics Basis San Antonio practices to scare away children who do not meet their academic standards? Other Basis parents who did not feel supported transferred out earlier this year, should we have moved too? My child was emotionally tormented and struggled entire school year trying to maneuver through the Basis curriculum without his 504 accommodations. What I learned is Basis San Antonio lacks empathy, skill, and proper staff to support neither disabled children nor their parents. More importantly, how can a “world class” publically funded, educational institution be permitted to ignore the needs of their disabled students and their parent’s constant cries for help?

First, what can be done to assist this parent of special education at BASIS? Is there someone out there that will step up to the plate and pursue these allegations legally on behalf of these parents…

We must hold the Blocks, the BASIS Board of Directors, policymakers in the city of San Antonio, the influential elite pouring millions into corporate charters, and the Brackenridge Foundation accountable for allowing this alleged treatment of children at BASIS. These allegations must be investigated. Please Facebook Like, Tweet, etc below and/or reblog to share this discussion widely about BASIS. We must counter the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent (and profit derived) to do this to children.

See also the posts What Ideology hath San Antonio Imported from Arizona Charter Chains? and Charter Op-Ed Misrepresents (Big Tree): My Response That They Won’t Print (Small Axe)

For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on charters go here.

p.s. For those of you that want to write that BASIS is just fine for your kids in the comments…

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own. Cesar Chavez

p.s.s. Also, BASIS cheerleaders that will inevitably try to post here, you must include your real name or your cheerleading comments will be rejected immediately. They may be rejected anyways because BASIS has put me in a really surly mood today.

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Categories: Charter Schools

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.

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44 Comments on “Parent Horror Stories from BASIS: Corporate Charter Hurting Children?”

  1. June 8, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Although I live in PA, I follow Texas education generically. It appears the textbook decisions made in Texas affect the rest of the country to a large degree. Of course, I find it appalling that children – and parents – are treated with such abhorrence for lack of a better word. I started 1st grade in 1950 and was exposed to all possible relative subjects. Art, music, spelling, and writing (cursive) were taught everyday, and overall, I can’t remember any day that I didn’t want to go to school and didn’t look forward to it. Harsh discipline of the kind you refer to was non-existent in my school, and to tell the truth my greatest fear was that Dad would find out if I were disciplined in school because he would have at the very least something to say to me about it. This was in the days when all abilities were found in one class, except that the very significantly mentally impaired (perhaps I.Q.’s say below 75) were addressed separately. Otherwise, we all helped one another. I mention this only for reference, to suggest how it used to be. I have NO idea how we got to the situation you describe. In addition, my ‘grade school’ was a K-8 neighborhood school. We all went home for lunch. Many of the teachers lived in the neighborhood, and many of the teachers also taught Sunday School at many of the churches of varying denominations or were active in their local synagogues – all in the neighborhood. It was, of course, a lot ‘safer’ to play outside back them. We only had to be back home when the street lights came on, or when the neighborhood fire hall blew its curfew alert at 9 P.M. – whichever came first!

    Truthfully, until I read your article, I used to believe that teachers, educators, administrators, and school board members (elected by an informed electorate) should be primarily responsible for the content of education and for the principles used to carry it forward, while still being responsive to the parents and PTA without letting them run the ‘show.’ Your example clearly illustrates the unfortunate result of any such position applied in the extreme. Considering your credentials, I would think ‘Basic’ would be happy to have your input. I am appalled that this “Basic” school wasn’t more responsive to the parent’s emails, the situation, and the parent’s efforts to help. I’ll conclude by noting that I intend to modify my feelings about how public education should be approached, and I hope that the San Antonio area in general solves this atrocious situation. In addition I also hope that the parent quoted above, in particular, can find the means to mitigate the damage already done to his/her child, while insuring a sound educational program in the future. …

  2. Shelley Potter
    June 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing these two parent experiences. I have spoken with another parent whose child will not be returning to BASIS San Antonio. She, too, had the head of school refuse to reply to emails and had her child retaliated against when she asked questions and raised concerns about curriculum and inappropriate fees. Seems to be a theme. The total lack of compassion for the child whose sister was terminally ill is heartbreaking to me as an educator. The vast majority of what is described in your post is educational malpractice. And you are absolutely correct that we need to hold accountable the Brackenridge Foundation, Choose to Succeed, and the politicians and business people who championed bringing this outfit to SA.

  3. jcgrim
    June 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    The mistreatment and purposeful exclusion of children with disabilities in charters has been systematically ignored by the charter cheerleaders in the media and by the feds. Most disheartening is Duncan’s DoEd failure to support state compliance officers. He essentially deregulated special education.

    All compliance ended in 2011 when Duncan’s OSEP director told us at the national CEC conference that they would be monitoring from DC (translation: test scores in spread sheets). This signaled to schools that the feds would not perform oversight of children with disabilities rights & protections. This major shift in policy is radical. Special education students would never have been included into neighborhood schools without federal enforcement of IDEA regs. Arne has ended all of the progress we’ve made since 1975. I predict we’ll see more & more segregation & exclusion of children with disabilities.

    The Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrelli has already justified “reforming” SPED. He’s in favor of segregating SPED into their own schools and cutting costs. He claims the broken special ed policy is stuck in 1975 . Sound familiar? Fordham has an embargoed document in Nov 2013 on ” Financing the education of high needs students” that recommends cutting services.

    http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/flypaper/financing-the-education-of-high-need-students-0

    • jcgrim
      June 8, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

      I was typing so fast that didn’t edit my comment so please forgive my errors!

  4. Jim
    June 8, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    As shocking as it is to hear about the cruelty to children and disrespect to parents in schools like this, it is becoming more common. You will find punitive school environments like this in schools all over Texas. This malpractice and abuse is becoming more common from increased performance pressure on teachers and children, and neglect of children’s social and emotional development.

    Too many parents and teachers are intimidated by the school’s authority and they feel helpless to stop it. They are too consumed with their own fears and insecurity to stand up for their children’s welfare.

  5. Leen Mosley
    June 8, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    In a country that legislates so many things, why does a school not come under the supervision of education authorities? Not anyone can be a plumber, doctor, accountant… without following city, state and national codes, so how can charters get a license to educate without reporting to authorities?
    Since education is both a civil right and a legal obligation, how can a school not be under state jurisdiction?

    The Blocks later formed a separate, for-profit company and in 2009 signed a service agreement with the non-profit that provides Basis’ six schools with most everything they need to operate: school directors, teachers, accounting, technology, human resources, public relations and Michael and Olga Block…

    Basis Inc. denied a request from The Arizona Republic to review a copy of its agreement with the Blocks’ company.

    The state also is limited in what it can find out about management companies. The state charter board can audit only the charter school, not the private company hired to run the school’s operations…

    A few of the Blocks’ relatives also received money for work performed for the schools, including a relative who performed accounting services for the schools in the Czech Republic, as recently as fiscal 2009.

    The tax returns no longer include these details because the Blocks work for the privately held company, not the non-profit. Michael Block said the company is a private business and declined to discuss salaries or whether family members are performing work for the schools…

  6. special ed paraeducator
    June 8, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    “what can be done to assist this parent of special education at BASIS? Is there someone out there that will step up to the plate and pursue these allegations legally on behalf of these parents…”
    You know what, I wouldn’t put much hope in the hearings. Not with all the money and vested interests against you. And what could come out of the hearing anyway? What needs to happen is publicity and networking among parents,– and especially among parents of children with special needs who have been to charter schools. There needs to be more opportunity for parents to tell their horror stories, and those horror stories must exist in plenty, given the fact that most of these for-profit charter schools keep up their test scores through very high attrition rates. There are stories behind all this attrition. There needs to be a web page where parents of charter school victims can connect, so that other parents (especially parents of special needs children) can read these stories and take them into account when being barrage by charter school sales pitches. We can’t depend on these kinds of allegations being investigated by the powers that be — it is more important to spread awareness among parents.

  7. kara myers
    June 10, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    So much like the above stories I can share my one experience at basis San Antoino, involving my 1 child. A little background first, my child has attended an NYC public school, a San Antonio (NEISD) public school, a small parent co-op for elementary age children, and basis. We can only say wonderful things about our NYC school. The co-op was run by a parent board so faced an array of challenges, but my child was loved and learned a great deal. The worst school, (in our experience with 1 child) was the exemplary rated TX public school. My child essentially repeated in 2nd grade what she had already learned in first while at the NYC school. The teacher (half way through the year) noted my child was smart and seemed bored in class. My daughter only did worksheets all day long, which she completed quickly only to draw elaborate doodles on the back. So of course, she talked too much, did not earn the honor of being a “behavior manager” and essentially will say she felt like it was a prison. She was treated poorly by other children, and teachers who were less than helpful and did not offer her any motivation. I visited the school weekly during lunch to volunteer or eat with my child and found the teachers to walk the lunch rows like prison guards barking orders. Children had to walk in the hallways with their hands behind their back in a single file line. It was not a place where I would have wanted to send my child.

    Now on to basis, my child was in 5th grade this year. She has learned a great deal. She has had many great teachers that inspired and excited her. She will complain about the rules (there are many), but I think for this age group it might be better to have those rules to minimize bullying. She has made friends. Teacher’s responded promptly to my emails and concerns, the few times I felt the need to contact someone at the school. She did receive detention once for not completing her homework and I was happy it happened. She has not had anything stolen, and was never found sick on the bathroom floor. I volunteered during lunch at basis and only saw cheerful children eating their lunch in small groups, and felt like all the children had great manners. This was our experience at this school. I would not have put a special needs child in this school because basis is clear about its curriculum. If you have a child that can’t stay organized, complete tons of homework (up to 2 hours a night), and stay focused in class to keep up, your child will fail here. My eldest daughter succeeded, not sure my other children would have, because it’s not a school for every child, but for some children it works, and works well.

    I can get behind the fact that basis is less than straightforward about its finances and may in fact be destroying public education in the state of TX. This is a different argument than the scare tactics that children are being treated badly. I think the focus should be redirected to how can public education be fixed so charter schools won’t proliferate.

    My main point here is to consider, is it the fault of basis, or the law making bodies in the state of Texas, that parents are more than willing to leave a neighborhood public school (like we did) to find a school that challenges their child? I drive 2 hours everyday to take my child to a school where she can experience a love of learning and be challenged. Basis provided that significantly more than our neighborhood NEISD exemplary school. It’s a big problem in this state and it’s only going to get worse. No charter would have lured me away from our NYC school ever, at our NEISD school it was hard to finish the year. And in fact, a part of why we are leaving the state this year is because we want that neighborhood public school Texas can’t give us.

    • Kellen Hayes
      June 14, 2014 at 9:07 am #

      You concede that BASIC is not for every child yet they accept public funds to educate every child. They clearly don’t accommodate all students as a traditional public school is bound by law to do. There in lies the problem. Don’t be complicit.

      • linda
        June 16, 2014 at 11:34 am #

        And that I think says it all….good post.

  8. Linda
    June 10, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    We had our own horror story at Basis but pulled my granddaughter out after a few months. Retaliation against the kids by staff seemed to be common, as did kids being admitted to psych hospitals. Someone does need to investigate them

  9. kara myers
    June 10, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    Also, Cloaking Inequality, I think it’s interesting that basis “cheerleaders” have to leave their names to comment but those making accusations against basis remain anonymous. I posted your website on the basis community FB page for the school, I am sure you will hear from more “cheerleaders” to form a more well rounded picture of the students’ experience at this school. I agree with your outrage at charter schools in this state but the focus, to me, should be at the state level, the emphasis on testing, the minimization of teacher’s ability to individualize at public schools, and policy makers being fine and dandy making Pearson a billion dollar industry. Basis is the symptom, Republican TX legislators are the disease.

  10. Trinity Muehlberger
    June 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    I know both of the parents whose comments are quoted in this article. They are kind ladies who care about their children however some of the quotes in this article are not true. Therefore, until I hear the school’s side of the argument, which I’m sure they cannot discuss given the fact that there is a pending legal hearing in July, I will reserve my judgment of the school.
    My son went to the same public elementary school as the children of both of these ladies. We love Aue Elementary! However, I found that my son was getting straight A’s easily in all subjects and that the curriculum was constructed around the passing of standardized tests. The teachers work to make the curriculum interesting but they must cater to those who are at risk for not passing the tests. In fact, many of those in jeopardy or with special needs are rightfully given 1:1 attention in the classroom. My son qualified for the GT program which allows them 3 hours of advanced curriculum per week. That’s it.
    We are a middle to upper middle class family with 3 boys that are less than 2 years apart. I have the luxury of only working part time and my husband is retired military who works a very physically and mentally demanding job but has the luxury of working only 40 hours a week and making good money. We can’t, however, afford to send our boys, given their closeness in age, to an acclaimed school like TMI or Keystone at 20K per kid per year without decreasing the amount of time we spend with them in exchange for work. We definitely don’t qualify for any grants or financial assistance to these schools and therefore are stuck in a system that is required to strive to meet a mediocre standard for all.
    So now what?
    BASIS.
    My son has read Beowulf in the 5th grade. He checks the stock market everyday. He cries if he has to miss school. He has friends that are Indian, African American, Chinese, Japanese, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, poor, and rich (try finding that in a private school). He is being challenged in every class, receiving good marks, but is still able to manage to participate in soccer, game club, and play the violin. He also volunteers at a nursing home and participates in youth group. This school is for him. Yes, we have heard of a few bad teachers who have been let go (You can’t do that so easily in a public school). The school is brand new and has hired more staff as they realize the need for an increase in effective communication.
    I pray the powers that be who will never hear my voice as I’m neither rich or poor will have mercy on this plight, the plight of poor to upper middle class with intelligent, good kids who deserve to have their special need, the need for advanced curriculum and challenge, met.
    And by the way, if my other two sons, aren’t able to survive the Basis curriculum after tutoring and hard work, I will take them out and put them in another public school where they fit better.
    Of note, since Basis and other charters have entered the arena, I can’t help but notice the improved curriculum in the local public schools.
    As for being a cheerleader… “Ra Ra”

  11. J Rose
    June 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    I suggest any parent with a child who has disabilities contact Disability Rights Texas (disabilityrightstx.org) whenever you feel your child’s IDEA/504 rights are being violated. They will listen to your explanation of the situation and offer an attorney to intervene on your behalf. Their goal is to help improve the situation before it escalates. I hope your situation improves.

  12. Lisa
    June 10, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

    Here is the thing. This is not a school for whimps. If your child was used to getting all A’s, that will not happen here. It is hard, but it makes for a better person. Either it is hard now, or when you get to university, where you have not room for failure. I think it is wrong that you did not interview parents that were happy with the school. I can give you names of at least 100 sixth grade parents, many that I know. I have contacted the administration many times, and have had a quick response. However, I did not go in there complaining, or acting like my child was a genuis. I know what I have. The problem with many parents is that they think they have a scholar of the century. At Basis, the playing field is leveled. What my child has learned this year is amazing. Things that I learned in high school. Serioulsy, psych doctor? There are other issues there. The homework is heavy at times, but then there are times that it was not. They know they are kids. I agree with one that responded that the school is not for special needs kids. About not having a nurse, if my child was sick, he would know to call me and tell me how he felt. I would be there right away. The whining is unbelievable. This is an example of the “whimpification of America”. Not everyone gets a trophy.

    • June 11, 2014 at 5:27 am #

      Dear parents, Sorry you are too whimpy for BASIS.

      • linda
        June 11, 2014 at 9:14 am #

        Very classy……typical of the kind of atmosphere at Basis.

    • terry
      June 11, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      i agree. i sent a looong response to this web page about our experience at BASIS, and this commie liberal heilig chose to not post it because it doesn’t flow with his mojo.

      • June 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

        Sorry Terry. I have been busy with teaching, writing and travel. I will respond to your comment in a future post. However, I must assure you that my membership dues to the commie party have lapsed for 2013-2014.

      • Chris in Florida
        June 14, 2014 at 8:35 am #

        Ah, so BASIS is a school for right-winger Fox “News” fans that listen to Limbaugh and Coulter.

        That explains the general disdain for other people’s children, the lack of diversity in the student body, the lack of empathy and nurturing, ignoring parents, state, and federal statutes, disgust with special needs students, and the ridiculous amount of homework (which much research has proven is useless and has no impact on learning at the elementary level).

        Good to know!

    • truthbetold
      June 14, 2014 at 9:40 am #

      Michelle Rhee, is this YOU? How are your daughters – has their step dad kept his hands off them?

  13. Ana Vela
    June 11, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    I think that some of the problems here may be due to a lack of understanding on the part of some of the posters and parents. Please understand that I mean no disrespect by making that statement, but I am concerned about comments made by posters Kara Myers and Lisa. So I address my comments to them as well as the rest of your readers. Any school, including BASIS that is awarded a charter by the State of Texas must be open enrollment. That means that they are legally not allowed to pre-test students to ensure that they “meet the standard” or deny access to any student including those that are special needs. This is because they received State monies to run the schools, so as a tax payer you can understand why you would not want your tax dollars to go to a school that does not service all children. The only reason that they should/would not be admitted is if the school has reached their maximum enrollment as defined by their charter, or a lottery has been conducted and their child’s number was too high, i.e. there are only 20 slots in 1st grade and your number was 30. When Kara Myers states that “I would not have put a special needs child in this school because basis is clear about its curriculum. If you have a child that can’t stay organized, complete tons of homework (up to 2 hours a night), and stay focused in class to keep up, your child will fail here” she needs to understand that she is advocating for policy that is not only illegal, but harkens back to the days when children with special needs received their education in institutions. And when Lisa states “this is not a school for whimps (sp)” I assume she means that if your child is a different type of learner or is slower at understanding a concept, they should be excluded for what is described as an excellent education experience? I can guarantee both Kara and Lisa that there will come a time in the upcoming years of their children’s education when they will struggle with a concept. I would ask that as you go through that experience that you look back on your comments to this blog posting and see if you feel that same way.

    • Kara Myers
      June 11, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

      Since my post was pointed out, I just want to ask how is the quote you accurately attributed to me any different than what basis says about itself? I attended info sessions and this was all they talked about. If parents feel their child with special needs would thrive at basis then good for them. It is a choice I would have been scared to make. I think success or failure at this school is highly dependent on a child’s personality as much as any kind of “giftedness” so I do believe it is an open enrollment school.

      • Ana
        June 12, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

        Kara – I think you are still missing the point. I am happy that your children are doing well. Hoever, open enrollment schools are required to provide special education services. They are not private schools, but funded with tax payer dollars. If any school, through group meetings or individually, gives the impression that a certain type of student is not welcome, they are “creaming”. This is the main complaint by ISDs against charters. So as charter school advocates, we all should be doing our best to stop the practices that are illegal and hurting the “cause”. Thank you.

      • Annat
        June 14, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

        Kara, you are mistaken, and perhaps disillusioned. It is public money. It is a public school. “Public” means everyone. The school must legally be inclusive and make accomodations for students who need them. Otherwise, it is a “private” school and YOU should pay your child’s tuition, not me and all other taxpayers. Private schools can “cream.” It is illegal for publicly funded schools to cream. End of story. Quite simple.

      • Arryn Xan
        September 20, 2014 at 11:33 am #

        Annat…In the research I have done, charters are just that, designed to fill a special need or group of kids typically, some service all, but most seem to have a focus on a particular group of kids and they do that well, be it education, a special need, music, art or sports. ALL kids fall into some category or another (and public tax doesn’t change depending where they go, except less may go into the public schools as students slip into charters that work for them), funding is paid by student enrollment no matter which school they attend, so why pick on BASIS for servicing a sliver of the pie? Those kids are just as important as any other subset of kids and if the public system is failing them, why would they not move quietly away to a system that works for them? There are charters for many designated special needs as well….and those don’t service typical kids, but I am glad they are there for the kids. If I had a child with autism I might prefer her to attend a school that understood better how she worked and provided the right environment for her, so how would that be any different or more acceptable than BASIS servicing kids that want to excel at their education? I have a daughter with sensory issues who would email me crying from public school, lost slipping through the cracks, didn’t even test into the ‘gifted program’ (and don’t get me started on that term!!). She asked to try BASIS when it opened here, and we agreed. She loves it…kudo’s to them their structured intense classes work for her. Year 2, 6th grade, and she is loving every minute of it and knocking it out of the park! Win win for for her and society, the more highly educated kids we can put into our world the better off our wold will be. My biggest fear is that not all the right kids are giving BASIS a try! There are so few distractions in the classroom, that this school is actually really great for kids with some ADHD or sensory issues, and many might not even try because they struggle so hard in public! But look at the public classroom! It is distraction central. Yeah, I am on the Ra-Ra side. I support what they do 100%.

  14. jendacott
    June 11, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    I’m not surprised to discover that parents have varied experiences with this charter school, or with any charter school. Many charters are quite adept at weeding out the “undesirables” using practices such as those described here. For those of you who haven’t experienced these practices, you can rest easy knowing your child is desirable.

    • Annat
      June 14, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

      Yes!

  15. June 14, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    Lisa’s comment above: “Either it is hard now, or when you get to university, where you have no room for failure ” expresses the same ignorance of children’s developmental needs and lack of empathy that prevails throughout many schools in Texas, both public and charter. It is an attitude of denial and avoidance of responsibility that is causing children to be abused on a grand scale.

    Children’s brains cannot function well for higher level thinking, or scientific thinking, in an environment of fear and intimidation. The punitive authoritarian environment at BASIS is the opposite of what children need to develop a strong sense of self and identity, and to make healthy attachments to their teachers and peers. A child’s social and emotional development will determine their future success in college and career, and not how well they can respond to the commands of a drill sergeant teacher.

    The chronic stress in the BASIS environment will cause children to have learning disabilities as well as psychiatric disorders. The BASIS environment apparently depends on the same “Skinner Nazi” Management Style that has become popular with immature school administrators and teachers who are actually “whips” and “bullies”themselves, and fear their own inadequacies. Since they are not able to connect with children emotionally and motivate them in a healthy environment of mutual respect and inspirational learning, they “bully” and “control” them, and use punitive methods of behaviorism that resembles “obedience training” for zoo animals.

    The mistreatment of children at BASIS is institutional psychological abuse. The Texas Dept of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is failing to do their job by allowing this abuse to continue. This DFPS failure to protect children from institutional abuse in schools is another scandal like the previous debaucle with the Texas Juvenile Justice System. The failure of TEA to monitor the learning environment in Texas schools is also a travesty and points to shameful neglect by Commissioner Michael Williams and TEA. Both of these agencies, DFPS and TEA, are state agencies funded with taxpayer money. Why is Governor Perry silent and neglecting to take responsibility and supervise the agencies responsible for protecting children in Texas from state institutional abuse?

    • special ed paraeducator
      June 14, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

      Oh wow, I just have to respond to something so important that Joyce Murdock Feilke said above: “The chronic stress in the BASIS environment will cause children to have learning disabilities as well as psychiatric disorders.” This makes reference to something that I know exists yet no one ever mentions. That is: ACQUIRED learning disabilities. Differences in learning style probably have a neurological basis, but learning =disabilities= are artificially produced, in my humble opinion. I tutored special ed kids for 22 years, and specialized in kids who supposedly had learning disabiities in math (aka dyscalculia) — later went into private practice teaching “math haters” of all ages, children and adults, and I even advertised for “math haters,” Twenty-two years of teaching people who “can’t learn math” convinced me that there is no such thing as dyscalculia, at least not intrinsically. There are different learning styles, but learning disabilities in math are ACQUIRED (and I believe so are many learning disabilities in other subjects). They are caused by creating a mental block of stress that leads to situations of more stress, building stress upon stress, which becomes associated with and triggered by a particular learning situation. Stressful learning situations actually create learning disabilities (I’ll bet neuroscientists could map this neurologically). Stress creates mental blocks that prevent things from being processed. In fact, when we talk about the effects of poverty on learning, as complex as those effects are, most of them boil down to the fact that a life of poverty usually is a more stressful life than a life of comfort and ease.

      How is it =possible= that educational leaders don’t recognize that stress is the enemy of learning? How is it possible they don’t know that stressing kids actually creates barriers to their learning? And that stressed teachers produce stressed kids? And this is not sustainable.

      Anyway, corporate charter schools can’t possibly operate any other way since they are run by people who don’t know anything about real education. So they carry the seeds of their own destruction. I just shudder to think about how many kids will be their victims.

  16. Carrie Fink
    June 14, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    For the parent with the 504 issue…Contact Kimberly D. WILLIAMS, of Denton Tx. She is a special needs advocate and I’m very sure she can help you out. By law all AND PAPERS and 504 paperwork are to be followed or if I’m not mistaken you can sue them for not following them. I know you can find her on facebook…hope you win and that they loose their license. TEA needs to go after them.

    • Carrie Fink
      June 14, 2014 at 11:59 am #

      Suppose to say by law all ARD papers and 504 papers are to be followed.

    • Annat
      June 14, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

      Yes, youncan absolute sue and you should!

  17. Jo Doe
    June 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    You miss out one key point – Basis was not set up for educational reasons. It was set up for political reasons by two far-right and very conservative republicans. Look at what the Blocks have said through this prism and all will be clear. It is of course purely accidental that they make a fortune from a favorable law change; not at all similar to the Arizona STO movement.

  18. Diana
    June 17, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    Dr. Heilig:
    Thank you for this important blog post. I just returned from the Charter School Summit in Austin, and a staff member at a local charter mentioned this blog. I wanted to relate an incident that happened during the conference that I thought might add to this discussion. Commissioner Williams was the keynote speaker for yesterday’s luncheon, but instead of giving a speech, he opened the floor to questions. I admired him for doing this, as many attendees asked him some hard questions, but all were respectful. At one point, the Commissioner spoke about how Texas was different, which was why the State had their own testing standards (STARR) rather than common core. He spent a few minutes discussing the uniqueness of Texas and the student population compared to other states. Another attendee then asked the Commission why he was supporting out of state charters if Texas was so unique, and why these charters were allowed to use their success rates from other states as proof of success in Texas, and thereby able to bypass some of the charter application requirements. The Commissioner then stated that he did not see these two statements as inconsistent, and that Texas has always been “open for business” so why should he dissuade charters from AZ from coming to Texas. Many at my table were floored by his answer, as we do not see education as a “business” but it does give insight into the mind of the Commissioner. There were also attendees from states such as Wisc. that were discussing moving into Texas given the ease in obtaining a charter.
    As someone who has been involved in this movement for over a decade, I find myself disheartened by the path the movement is taking at this time. What does this portend for those of us who are not being given hundreds of thousands of dollars from groups such as Choose to Succeed? I also find the comments from the parents on this blog upsetting because they seem to want a private school education for free, and all the “others kind of kids” are out of luck. I would very much appreciate your thoughts on this matter. Thank you.

  19. June 30, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    Wow! I could have written the story above. My child has been at Basis in Peoria, AZ for 3 years. For 3 years, I have struggled with the administration and teachers. From my experience, everything written in the story above is true. The comments too reflect everything that my son has been through and all that he has witnessed. It’s a very cruel, very unsupportive environment and there is no room for children with disabilities or differences. Basis a horrible place to send children.

    Fortunately, not all Charter School are built the same. I have 2 other children, in the gifted program at another Charter school. They are excelling in their education. They love school and will be well prepared for high school when the time comes.

    Unfortunately, as my oldest son enters high school, he is not in the same position. After attending Basis Peoria, AZ for 3 years, he will have to retake many courses and his self esteem and self worth will have to be completely rebuilt. He hates school, fears teachers and mistrusts administrators. What a waste!

  20. Shelley Potter
    August 20, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    There is another Basis San Antonio parent who I’ve heard from. Her story has many similarities . . . email after email to the Head of School with no response, retaliation towards her child when she started asking questions, etc. I will pass this on to her to see if she, too, will share her story.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Educational Policy Information - June 8, 2014

    […] By Julian Vasquez Heilig Today I am blogging about two parent horror stories from BASIS. Let me just warn you, after hearing parents talk about what happened to their children at BASIS, you will likely be in a surly mood learning about this corporate (quasi-for profit) charter chain. BASIS corporate charter chain are now a very unfavorite of mine. Who/What is […] Read the full article […]

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    […] BASIS parents have been buzzing about a blog post, “Parent Horror Stories from BASIS: Corporate Charter Hurting Children?”, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Cloaking Inequity, June 8, 2014. Dr. Vasquez Heilig relates the tragic […]

  3. Heilig: BASIS Horror Stories, As Told by Parents | Diane Ravitch's blog - June 14, 2014

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  5. Ed News June 17, 2014 Edition | tigersteach - June 17, 2014

    […] Julian Vasquez Heilig, professor at the University of Texas–Austin, relates some “horror stories” from parents of students at a BASIS charter school in San Antonio.  He writes on his Cloaking […]

  6. Parents Say Top-Ranked Charter School Neglects Special Ed | The Texas Observer - July 11, 2014

    […] ADHD and using bully tactics to push him of out of the classroom. She leveled the accusation in a letter published on Cloaking Inequity, a blog written by University of Texas researcher Julian Vasquez […]

  7. Horrible Special Education & Discrimination in Charter Schools isn’t just a Delaware thing, USA Snapshot #netde #eduDE @delaware_gov | Exceptional Delaware - July 20, 2014

    […] Arizona & Texas: http://cloakinginequity.com/2014/06/08/parent-horror-stories-from-basis-corporate-charter-hurting-ch… […]

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