Is Teachers’ Union Right on H.R. 10 Charter Bill? #edreform

The U.S. House is currently debating H.R.10,  a potentially important Charter school bill. Previously I wrote:

I am not of the ilk that charters are all bad news (See all of Cloaking Inequity’s post on charter schools here). As I have mentioned previously, I am a charter school parent, currently serve on a charter school board, and was an instructor at an Aspire charter school. I realize that I have prominent friends and allies that are 100% anti-charter. I am okay with those feelings because I have serious concerns with equity in the charter movement.

In honor of National Charter School Week, the U.S. House has taken up H.R. 10: Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act. Today I received via email NEA’s statement on H.R. 10.

May 8, 2014

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), and the students they serve, we offer our views on select amendments to the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 10) scheduled for votes Friday.  While the underlying bill includes some improvements to existing law, it falls short of what is needed to ensure greater accountability and transparency.  Votes associated with amendments to H.R. 10 may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress.

NEA supports high-quality charter schools that operate in a manner that is transparent and accountable to parents and taxpayers; ensures equity and access; and solicits and benefits from input from parents, educators, and the communities they serve. We caution, however, that charter schools are not a panacea for solving all education challenges.

Some provisions of the underlying bill represent improvements, such as requiring greater charter authorizer accountability, and including weighted lotteries to address under-enrollment of disadvantaged students. However, the underlying bill falls short in key areas:  including no mandatory disclosure and reporting on key data including funding from private sources, no independent audit requirements, no open meetings requirements and no conflict of interest guidelines.  Please refer to  NEA’s full letter on the underlying bill for more details.

NEA’s views on specific amendments are listed below.

The following are amendments strongly supported by NEA:

  • #3 by Rep. Castor – Requires the Secretary of Education to develop and enforce conflict of interest guidelines for all charter schools receiving federal assistance. Guidelines must include disclosures from anyone affiliated with the charter school that has a financial interest in the school.
  • #4 by Rep. Moore – This amendment would establish a two percent set-aside of funds to assist with state oversight of their charter schools, and ensure disclosure of private sources of funding in audits.
  • #7 by Reps. Grayson / Clarke / Wilson – This amendment ensures that an application by a state entity to receive grants through the Charter School Program contains an assurance that charter schools will also measure student retention rates in their annual performance assessments – as well as graduation rates and student academic growth, as currently required by this bill.
  • #8 by Rep. Jackson Lee – This amendment ensures that charter schools make certain information publicly available on their website including student recruitment, enrollment criteria, student discipline policies, behavior codes, and any parent contract requirements or financial obligations.
  • #9 by Reps. Wilson / R. Davis / Duckworth / Grayson / McKinley / Fudge – This amendment will ensure collection and public dissemination of information that will help parents make informed decisions about education options for their children, including disaggregated data on student outcomes, suspensions, and expulsions.
  • #12 by Rep. Loretta Sanchez. – This amendment requires states to report how they have worked with their charter schools to foster community involvement.

NEA is also supportive of these amendments to H.R. 10:

  • #5 by Reps. Bass / Marino / McDermott / Bachmann – This amendment ensures there are no unnecessary barriers for foster youth in charter school enrollment and ensures the inclusion and retention of all students no matter the involvement or lack of involvement of parents.
  • # 10 by Reps. Langevin / G. Thompson – This amendment would add comprehensive career counseling to the criteria that the Secretary of Education will take into account when prioritizing grants to school districts.
  • #11 by Rep. Bonamici – This amendment would clarify the reporting requirements of State entities to include the sharing of best practices by charters and traditional public schools.

We thank you for your consideration of our views on these select amendments and urge your support for them.


Mary Kusler,

Director, Government Relations

I have written extensively on charters here at Cloaking Inequity. I believe the amendments deal with many of the issues that charters have with access and equity noted in the empirical literature.

What do you think? If you agree with the NEA.. email, tweet, call your congressperson ASAP.

p.s. NEA didn’t ask me to do this, I do it of my own volition.

UPDATE 4/8/2014: Sadly my “progressive” credentials were just revoked. Because I posted this post in the Progressive Education Coalition Facebook group. Richard Sugarman, author of The Frustrated Teacher website,  told me to “take my charter lovin” elsewhere. huh?!  Does that mean I am officially a conservative now? 🙂

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  • seems to me we are all trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted…

    I dont support charters for all the same reasons others have listed – they suck money out of the public education system into private pockets, they skim children, ‘counsel out’ those who dont perform for one reason or another, dont produce better academic results than public schools do (in fact, a full third do much worse), they are not held accountable etc, etc…

    AND…. poor kids don’t do well in school because poverty keeps them behind trhe 8-ball and schools cant ameliorate the effects of poverty that low SES kids bring into the classroom with them every day…

    AND… what to do with square peg children who are not thriving in our round hole public schools because the (underfunded and under-resourced) schools cant meet them where they’re at…

    I sympathise/empathise with parents who make the choices to send their children to charter schools because there are no working public school options for them… AND… I agree with those who argue that doing that drives another hole into the public education coffin and plays directly into the hands of the privatisers…

    Faced with these realities, I took my child out of school altogether… we are unschooling… NO ONE gets the taxpayer dollars that should be his by right… which is sucky, especially for him… but at least they’re not going to the privatisers, being used AGAINST public education…


  • Hi Julian. I met you briefly before your talk at the University of Arkansas. As for these amendments, I would fully support them except for one thing – are they all things that traditional public schools regularly practice? If so, then I am for their passage! Otherwise, I am against them as they may be an effort by anti-charter ideologists to destroy charters completely.

    I am for high quality charters and high quality traditional public schools. Let’s just make sure they are on a level playing field…

    @etecguy on twitter


  • I am disappointed – it does seem as though you have swallowed some of the kool-aid served by Bill Gates and his ilk. You don’t read the recent exposures of corruption on the part of many charters? Perhaps you would visit Los Angeles and see our decimated district because money and new campuses have been handed over to the biggest charter companies in the country. I don’t care that you are a charter parent — that should be separate from your analysis and understanding of what charters are doing to the public school system. When I have more time I’ll send you all the literature. But I know you are the fancy professor so you must know more than I do.
    I just disagree with your analysis. As I disagree with Karen Bass’ idiotic support of charters for her foster children about whom she is so concerned. Clearly she has no idea what charters do to children who can’t “perform” and get high scores. They make them feel bad and make them find other schools.
    And I wouldn’t kick you out of a group but it’s not my group. Don’t make that part of this discussion.


    • I have swallowed none of the Bill Gates kool-aid. My body of research and writing on charters is extensive. If you have any doubts on my position on charters, please re-read those posts.

      There is this update from Congressman Grijalva’s office.

      Media Contact
      Adam Sarvana (
      (202) 225-2435 (Office)
      (202) 573-2562 (BlackBerry)

      Grijalva Expresses Deep Disappointment At House Refusal to Improve Charter School Bill, Highlights Findings of Costs to Taxpayers

      Washington, D.C. – In the wake of recent news about potentially widespread charter school waste, fraud and abuse, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today expressed his deep disappointment at the House Rules Committee’s decision last night not to allow debate or a vote on his amendments to HR 10, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act. Grijalva’s amendments, which the Committee ruled out of order, would have made charter school operations more transparent and financially accountable to the public.

      HR 10 is expected to get a House vote before the end of the week.

      As reported by Salon today:

      Just in time for National Charter School Week, there’s a new report highlighting the predictable perils of turning education into a poorly regulated business. Titled “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse,” the report focused on 15 states representing large charter markets, out of the 42 states that have charter schools. Drawing on news reports, criminal complaints, regulatory findings, audits and other sources, it “found fraud, waste and abuse cases totaling over $100 million in losses to taxpayers,” but warned that due to inadequate oversight, “the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.”

      While there are plenty of other troubling issues surrounding charter schools — from high rates of racial segregation, to their lackluster overall performance records, to questionable admission and expulsion practices — this report sets all those admittedly important issues aside to focus squarely on activity that appears it could be criminal, and arguably totally out of control. It does not even mention questions raised by sky-high salaries paid to some charter CEOs, such as 16 New York City charter school CEOs who earned more than the head of the city’s public school system in 2011-12. [. . .]

      The report takes its title from a section of a report to Congress by the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, a report that took note of “a steady increase in the number of charter school complaints” and warned that state level agencies were failing “to provide adequate oversight needed to ensure that Federal funds [were] properly used and accounted for.”

      Grijalva’s amendments, respectively, would:

      – require public disclosure of all private contributions made to charter schools.
      – require the development and public disclosure of charter school conflict-of-interest guidelines; require open meetings at every charter school governing board, including parent, educator and support staff representatives; require meetings to be held at times when parents can attend, announced in advance, and made open for the public to attend and testify; and mandate that governing board minutes are published and available online.
      “Our school system exists to serve students, not to pay for administrators’ personal luxuries,” Grijalva said. “Our children deserve a good education no matter what school they go to, and taxpayers deserve a return on the investment they make in young Americans’ upbringing. This bill leaves a broken system in place, and I will not support it.”


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