Sunday, October 25, 2015
Report twists truth and ignores facts to slam charter schools as ‘black holes’
The Center for Media and Democracy describes its new report “Charter School Black Hole” as a “Special Investigation,” and “special” is the right word for it.
It indeed takes a special effort for any organization to so thoroughly miss the point of its own report.
The report is presented as “a reporter’s guide” to the failings of the U.S Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program.
Established in the 1990’s, CSP’s main purpose is to provide grant money to help establish charter schools. DOE usually selects grant recipients in conjunction with state education agencies.
“The CSP program has been a significant driver of the growth of high-quality charter schools across America. The almost $3 billion in CSP funds since its inception have been used to plan and open more than 4,000 charter schools across the country,” according to a statement provided to Watchdog by DOE.
CMD considers that grant money, which was specifically budgeted for charter schools, to have been “diverted from traditional public schools.”
The report claims “no one even knew how much the federal government had spent on its Charter Schools Program for states. So CMD reviewed more than two decades of federal appropriations to calculate the sum, more than $3.7 billion including the latest spending.”
That amount, even spread over 20 years, sounds impressive to people unacquainted with education spending by the federal government.
Between 1995 and 2015, DOE spent more than $737 billion on elementary and secondary school programs. The CMD report doesn’t mention DOE’s overall spending or provide any other useful context to help the reader understand the numbers it cites.
That’s not surprising, since even a quick glance at the report shows it’s designed to alarm rather than inform.
CMD, a liberal nonprofit based in Madison Wisconsin, used almost every typographical trick short of wide-eyed emojis to try to alarm readers.
Blue, red and black typefaces of varying sizes are used in an attempt to drag readers to the conclusion that charter schools are black holes sucking up federal dollars without being held accountable for their performance.
To create this impression, CMD cites examples of failed charter schools in 12 states, even though — like all other public schools — charter schools receive the vast majority of their funding from state and local sources.
What percentage of all the CSP grants went to those failed schools? The report doesn’t say.
What percentage of the country’s charter schools do those failed schools represent? The report doesn’t say.
“We believe that the Center for Media and Democracy’s report demonstrates a lack of basic understanding of the federal Charter Schools Program and public charter school accountability,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
To Rees, the now-closed charter schools CMD lists prove that charter schools are, indeed, accountable.