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Posted at 6:41 PM ET, 06/30/2010

Correction on Ed Dept and charters

By Valerie Strauss

The Education Department’s press secretary e-mailed me to say that I was wrong when I wrote in a recent post that states wishing to win federal money in Duncan’s Race to the Top contest “had to pledge” to open more charter schools.

The spokesman, Justin Hamilton, said that the department did not require states to make such a pledge.

Hamilton is right. My mistake.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan did not ask states to “pledge” -- which is literally “a solemn promise or agreement to do” -- to open more charter schools.

Duncan has, of course, said that states that did not agree to open more charters would be at a disadvantage in the $4 billion competition. He wrote the following last year in an article published by The Washington Post, entited "Education Reform's Moon Shot:"

“The Race to the Top program marks a new federal partnership in education reform with states, districts and unions to accelerate change and boost achievement. Yet the program is also a competition through which states can increase or decrease their odds of winning federal support. For example, states that limit alternative routes to certification for teachers and principals, or cap the number of charter schools, will be at a competitive disadvantage.”

And Duncan told reporters last summer in a conference call that “States that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top fund.”

But Hamilton is right. That is not the same thing as requiring that they pledge to do it.

The Race to the Top criteria gives 40 out of a possible total of 500 points on a state's application for agreeing to do the following regarding charter schools:

(F)(2) Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charter schools and other innovative schools (40 points)
The extent to which—
(i) The State has a charter school law that does not prohibit or effectively inhibit increasing the number of high-performing charter schools (as defined in this notice) in the State, measured (as set forth in Appendix B) by the percentage of total schools in the State that are allowed to be charter schools or otherwise restrict student enrollment in charter schools;
(ii) The State has laws, statutes, regulations, or guidelines regarding how charter school authorizers approve, monitor, hold accountable, reauthorize, and close charter schools; in particular, whether authorizers require that student achievement (as defined in this notice) be one significant factor, among others, in authorization or renewal; encourage charter schools that serve student populations that are similar to local district student populations, especially relative to high-need students (as defined in this notice); and have closed or not renewed ineffective charter schools;
(iii) The State’s charter schools receive (as set forth in Appendix B) equitable funding compared to traditional public schools, and a commensurate share of local, State, and Federal revenues;
(iv) The State provides charter schools with funding for facilities (for leasing facilities, purchasing facilities, or making tenant improvements), assistance with facilities acquisition, access to public facilities, the ability to share in bonds and mill levies, or other supports; and the extent to which the State does not impose any facility-related requirements on charter schools that are stricter than those applied to traditional public schools; and
(v) The State enables LEAs to operate innovative, autonomous public schools (as defined in this notice) other than charter schools.

Here again, Hamilton is right. It doesn't say anything about "pledging."

The fact that a number of states rushed to pass legislation to raise their charter caps also does not mean that they were being asked to "pledge" to do so.

Now we have set the record straight.


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By Valerie Strauss  | June 30, 2010; 6:41 PM ET
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Nice to know that the Department of Education reads your blog.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 30, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Charter schools can work but the verdict is still out. Many have closed or have charges of fraud and embezzlement. Publically funded, yet privately owned it is a cost savings for economically strapped school districts. The issue is lack of accountability and undefined curriculum. Many times the foundations or institutations that open the schools have another agenda besides educating our children. The Gulen Movement is a good example of lacking transparency.
They manage over 100 US Charter schools, all the principals are Turkish Men as well as 1/2 of the staff. They are all uncredentialed and are immgrated to the USA under HB-1 Visas. Money is laundered between the schools in different states and numerous Gulen foundations. The schools teach Turkish language, dance, song. The Marketing and public relations at these schools is ALL HYPE, as it is a sales job because charter school management is a business.
They hold turkish olympiads where the children perform waving the Islamic Flag of Turkey, they are also flown to Turkey to perform in Gulen's big show for Turkish politicans.

Posted by: SalesA1 | June 30, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, I gotta go with Hamilton on this one...."pledge" isn't the best word choice. Coercion, however, fits squarely into the equation.

Posted by: shadwell1 | June 30, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for setting the record straight.

Coercion comes to mind when I read the actual document vs your more benign word choice of "pledge".

I keep hearing how so much of the DOE's initiatives are 'voluntary'--really?

Me thinks thou doth protesr too much.

Posted by: rsolnet | June 30, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

If Justin Hamilton reads this - I want him to know that I am voting and will campaign againt Obama on account of Arne Duncan's false reforms.

Posted by: aby1 | July 1, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

One tires of the new Republican administration in Washington and their beer drinking crowd pleasers of charter schools, bashing teachers, and union busting. Given the environment and the economic situation I would not be surprised if this Republican President went to a public school in Wisconsin and started to harangue the students to step up their game to compete with the Chinese and Indians.

Maybe in 2012 a Democratic Administration will be voted in.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 1, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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