Florina Rodov: Charter Schools Should Get Zero Federal Dollars
Florina Rodov is a teacher who used to work in a charter school, and left that industry highly disillusioned with charter methods and goals. In this piece from LA Progressive, she provides first hand examples of the kind of waste outlined in the Network for Public Education’s report on the federal charter support program.
As a former charter school teacher in Los Angeles, I saw federal dollars being wasted on dysfunctional schools that never should have been started in the first place. Westchester Secondary Charter School, the school where I taught in the 2016-2017 academic year, was launched with a $375,000 CSP grant. It opened in September 2013 and closed in June 2017. The Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) cited several concerns in its detailed rejection of the school’s charter renewal petition including an “unsound educational program,” a failure to “meet its enrollment projections,” “the lack of appropriate school facilities,” “issues related to special education,” and a discipline program that may cause “physical, educational, or psychological harm to the affected pupils.”
While I was teaching at Westchester Secondary Charter School, City High School—a charter that received a $575,000 CSP grant and was also struggling with facility and enrollment issues—closed “a month into its second year,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Soon after, in September 2016, Westchester Secondary Charter School took in a few of its 116 students, and my colleagues and I embarked on the challenging task of catching them up when they’d already missed a month of instruction and yearned to be with their friends and teachers.
In hindsight, it seems that the public dollars wasted on these schools and the personal angst they caused to teachers, students, and parents should have been avoided with a more rigorous authorization process for the disbursement of CSP funds.
Enrollment issues were not exclusive to Westchester and City High—most charters in Los Angeles were under-enrolled because there were just too many of them. California has more charter schools than any other state, and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has more charter schools than any other district in the country, leading to what the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss described in 2016 as “the Wild West” of the charter sector.In hindsight, it seems that the public dollars wasted on these schools and the personal angst they caused to teachers, students, and parents should have been avoided with a more rigorous authorization process for the disbursement of CSP funds.