In late June, I sat down with John Molineaux, the chief executive officer of the Association of Charter Schools, to discuss how charter schools can work in districts that don’t have the same financial constraints as traditional public schools.
(The Association’s mission is to “strengthen charter school growth.”)
Molineauaux and I agreed that there are two basic types of charter schools: those that operate under a charter contract with the school district and those that are run independently.
“There are so many different types of school, charter schools are really just a collection of different types,” he said.
But we also talked about the difference between an independent charter and one run by a corporate entity.
“If you look at what the model is, you’re seeing a company that is owned by the charter school,” he explained.
“So the business model is different, and the charter is really very different.”
The charter school model isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The difference is that in many cases, a school like this would have to make drastic changes in order to comply with the new federal regulations, which require it to be run in compliance with Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
In many cases they might have to close schools or put their operations into a charter, which could mean losing state funding or a reduction in student enrollment.
But as Molineux explained, the biggest problem with the traditional model is that it doesn’t really serve the students who attend the charter schools.
In fact, he said, a recent study showed that charter schools were actually worse for students with disabilities than traditional public school systems.
So, if the charter model isn and isn’t serving students with special needs, how can it possibly be considered a good model for schools like our own Granite school District?
The school district is already under a state of emergency because of a school shooting in January, but the district is struggling to meet the new requirements that would require it shut down schools.
“The charter school business model doesn’t serve students with a disability, because they’re not receiving the resources they need,” Molineaus said.
The problem, Molineans added, is that these schools don’t really care about the students they’re serving.
In many instances, they may have a hard time attracting students.
“There are charter schools in schools that are really struggling academically,” he continued.
“And they’re getting squeezed with this new charter law, and they’re losing money.
The charter schools aren’t really serving the students.”
In other words, the charter business model, while not a bad one, doesn’t necessarily have the ability to serve the people who are being served by the traditional public education model.
“What we’re seeing is that, in a lot of schools, they’re being squeezed with a different model,” he added.
“They’re not being able to get the funding that they need, so they’re closing down schools, closing down their classrooms, or closing the doors and closing the school.”
Molineus said that, while schools may not be able to afford to operate in a way that’s consistent with the federal requirements, they can still meet the needs of students.
“In most cases, schools are doing better, they don’t lose money, and there’s no real reason to close them,” he noted.
But, he added, there’s still a problem with charter schools that exist in a place like our Granite.
When I asked Molineua about his opinion on what happens when a school is shut down, he gave me a very blunt answer: It’s the students that lose.
“That’s what happens,” he replied.
The idea that charter school students have special needs is just plain false.
According to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), more than 80% of charter school children have the mental health needs of a third-grade level or above, and about 80% have at least some learning disabilities.
As Molineue explained, a large majority of charter students come from families with incomes below 150 percent of the poverty level.
In the context of this debate, it’s important to remember that the idea that “charter schools are bad for kids with disabilities” is simply not true.
It’s just a false idea that people have.
Charter schools can serve children who are academically and mentally challenged, but students who are not have no special needs.
Molineioes claim is that the students are “being ripped off” and that “people are looking for something that’s just not going to work.”
He also claimed that parents are losing money because the schools are closing, which he argued is not the case.
“Parents are actually losing money,” Molaaux said.
“It’s just the difference in the number of students.”
I asked Molaau why he thinks students who aren’t doing well in school are being blamed