by Jonas PerssonThe U.S. Department of Education is poised to spend half a billion dollars to help create new charter schools, while the public is being kept in the dark about which states have applied for the lucrative grants, and what their actual track records are when it comes to preventing fraud and misuse.
Already the federal government has spent $3.3 billion in American tax dollars under the Charter Schools Program (CSP), as tallied by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
But the government has done so without requiring any accountability from the states and schools that receive the money, as CMD revealed earlier this year.
Throwing good money after bad, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for a 48 percent increase in federal charter funding earlier this year, and the House and Senate budget proposals also call for an increase—albeit a more modest one—while at the same time slashing education programs for immigrants and language learners.
The clamor for charter expansion comes despite the fact that there are federal probes underway into suspected waste and mismanagement within the program, not to mention ongoing and recently completed state audits of fraud perpetrated by charter school operators.
Earlier this year, the Center for Popular Democracy documented more than $200 million in fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school industry in 15 states alone, a number that is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.
Is now really the right time to plow more tax money into charters?
Insiders Deliberate Far from the Public EyeThe Department of Education is currently deciding what states to award $116 million this year, and more than half a billion during the five-year grant cycle.
So who is in the running and what are their track records?
Which states have applied for a grant designed to eviscerate the public school system in the name of “flexibility?” (CMD's review of state applications and reviewers' comments from the previous grant cycle exposed “flexibility” as a term of art used by the industry for state laws that allow charter schools to: operate independently from locally elected school boards, employ people to teach without adequate training or certification, and avoid collective bargaining that helps ensure that teacher-student ratios are good so that each kid gets the attention he or she deserves.)