Struggling Detroit Public Schools recently had to revoke the charter of the Aisha Shule/ WEB DuBois Preparatory Academy due to its abysmal performance. The charter was in the bottom 5 percent academically, in serious fiscal hot water with over $186,000 in debt, and holding a rejection letter from the state on its deficit-elimination plan.
The charter’s approximately 100 students were greeted by an “enrollment fair” earlier this week, instead of regular lessons. The closure will be final on Oct. 31st, leaving families scrambling to make new arrangements.
Democracy Tree has written numerous times about the privatization scandal in Michigan’s public education under the Snyder administration. Charter and cyber schools have been given carte blanche to monetize education, and the closure of this academy is emblematic of all that is wrong with adding a for-profit layer to education. There are two types of charters, one is directly privatized, and the other is privatized by component, but the net effect remains the same.
We already know that these schools are not always in the best interest of the students, but what about the community and traditional public school districts? The city of Philadelphia is among the first major urban area’s to embrace the charter movement with relative abandon, having over 80 operating charters popping-up in the past fifteen years — they lead the way. The Washington Post reported this week that the competition and loss of funding is costing the public school district its good credit rating. With 23.7 percent of their funding going to charters in Philadelphia, Moody’s is finding that these urban clusters of charters are beginning to have a negative impact on the fiscal health of public school districts:
“While the vast majority of traditional public districts are managing through the rise of charter schools without a negative credit impact, a small but growing number face financial stress due to the movement of students to charters,” a team of analysts write in a new Moody’s report.
The Post described the problem as threefold. The first point being that charters are concentrated in urban areas. Without citing Detroit, their article is an eerie description of everything that has plagued the Motor City:
While charters are everywhere — in at least 41 states — they tend to make up a bigger share of total enrollment in urban areas. And some urban districts face a downward spiral driven by population declines. It begins with people leaving the city or district. Then revenue declines, leading to program and service cuts. The cuts lead parents to seek out alternatives, and charters capture more students. As enrollment shifts to charters, public districts lose more revenue, and that can lead to more cuts. Rinse, repeat.
The other two contributing factors that Moody’s found in the decline of urban districts was their inability to quickly adapt to the charter influx, and state policies that encourage charters, often at the expense of their traditional public schools.
DPS, like the city itself, is under siege with a string of emergency managers shuttering facility after facility — the school district has their own real estate department with about 120 listings currently.
We will cover the abandoned schools in our next post. And yes, the GOP has found a way to screw that up too.
Amy Kerr Hardin