How a City of Milwaukee Charter School Dodges Accountability

King’s Academy charter school has been a city of Milwaukee 2R charter school for six years. Because of the work of a small group of committed Milwaukee residents to make the city’s Charter School Review Board more transparent and accountable, more attention has been placed on how the city scrutinizes contracts with charter schools like King’s Academy. Much of that attention has been placed on King’s Academy for a poor record of performance and red flags in several key areas highlighted in this 2014 report prepared by the Schools and Communities United coalition.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 7.31.06 PMA report like that would seem to surely ensure the school’s removal from the city 2R charter program given such a long track record of poor performance, but who needs to be held accountable when all you have to do is go to another school system. That’s exactly what King’s Academy did at the August 13, 2015 CSRB meeting in announcing that they would no longer be seeking a contract with the city and instead would be heading back to the Wisconsin voucher program (so called Milwaukee Parental Choice Program):

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This was the response from Schools and Communities United to Board President Michael Murphy on King’s Academy and their sudden transition back to the voucher program, effectively dodging any accountability or track record as a school.

King’s Academy and other sham school operators will continue this voucher shell game of legalized corruption that fails Milwaukee students. Voucher schools run from accountability and hide from transparency. Public tax dollars belong in public schools. It is far past time to declare a moratorium on the failed private voucher system in Milwaukee.

This Letter Reveals a Dirty Secret About Wisconsin Voucher Schools

Letter showing a student being "counseled out" of a voucher school.

Letter showing a student being “counseled out” of a voucher school.

Voucher schools have long been known to “counsel out” children with special educational needs and at-risk behaviors, even after accepting taxpayer money to educate those students. The public rarely sees this happen, or is faced with the hardship this creates for children and their families. However, the letter below provides a glimpse into how voucher schools attempt to inflate their reputations by ridding themselves of unwanted students. It is exactly this kind of public oversight and accountability that Milwaukee parents would lose if MPS schools are handed over to private third party operators in the current state budget bill passed last week by the Joint Finance Committee.

Photo credit: Joe Brusky

Photo credit: Joe Brusky

In contrast to the schools that would be taken over, the remaining public schools would continue to educate ALL children, including those who are low test scorers, experiencing academic or behavior issues. Increasingly, they are also forced to pick up the students expelled by vouchers schools like Mount Olive, without any funding following the student to the next school.

This is unfair. It hurts the expelled students and their families, humiliating them and forcing them to change schools. It hurts public schools, both financially and by concentrating the share of at-risk children. Finally, it hurts the public, as taxpayer money is siphoned off for private gain.

A common argument of voucher school proponents is that these schools create competition for public schools, thereby increasing achievement across the board. However, when your “competitior” can skim the cream off the class crop, that’s far from a level playing field. It’s hard to imagine how this type of “competition” would be healthy for anyone.

The result for MPS is a climbing special needs population despite dwindling financial resources. Public school educators do their best to provide quality education for their students, but this becomes more challenging with every passing year. Though voucher school proponents love to talk about “choice” and “achievement,” the real story is that these schools do a serious disservice to students, families, educators, public school districts and state taxpayers and we don’t want anymore of them in Milwaukee!

Photo credit: Barbara Miner

Photo credit: Barbara Miner

Despite these glaring problems with the Wisconsin voucher program, legislators in the state capitol are poised to pass the MPS takeover. It’s time Milwaukee taxpayers stand up and tell them no! How many more students will we let schools like Mount Olive dump before we fix the problem?

 

Join us on Wednesday to say NO to the Takeover of MPS!