Show Them The Money

With regard to the goings on at ICEF in Los Angeles two quick thoughts.

First, despite all the rhetoric about charter schools being about making money off kids and other nonsense (only 10 percent nationwide are for-profit anyway, ICEF is not) a cause of ICEF’s problems are all the services they pile on kids.  And those services got results, ICEF’s graduation rate, college-going and persistence rates, SAT’s, etc…are terrific.   So you’d think that the folks who want to see more money spent on education – especially in a basket case state like California – would be using schools like ICEF as an argument to do so, rather than naysaying.

Second, on the money, California doesn’t spend enough on any of its schools.  For their part charters then get 9.2 percent less than that insufficient amount according to the recent Ball State report (pdf). While 9.2 percent is better than charter finance in many states (the average shortfall for charters is 19 percent relative to other public schools and in 17 states its 15 percent less or more) it’s a killer in California when coupled with the overall low PPE there.  You simply cannot discuss charter school performance or sustainability absent these crippling public finance shortfalls.  What’s especially frustrating is that schools that struggle in California would thrive elsewhere.  More on that later.

20 Replies to “Show Them The Money”

  1. When I first heard about charters, I thought they were schools run by educators without the usual interference from all the rules and regulations. This was a concept I approved of because teachers could be freed to do their very best for students without being second-guessed all the time. I still like this idea.

    However, it wasn’t long before I realized that these charters would also have complete control, without oversight, over the tax money. A charter operator, whether the head of a profit or nonprofit, could award himself an unusually large salary. This could be done by keeping teachers’ salaries and other costs low.

    In disbelief I wrote to my state department of education and discovered that charter managers are indeed able to assign themselves large “salaries.”

    Since then we’ve seen multiple instances of charter school abuses with managers and owners absconding with the money and children left to be reassigned to traditional schools.

    If parents and teachers want charters, they should have them but taxpayers have a right to accountability of the money. All charters should be subject to strict public auditing. I am working to make sure this happens in my state.

    Fortunately more and more journalists are reporting on these abuses and the public is becoming aware of them. There aren’t too many things worse than stealing money from poor schoolchildren.

  2. it’s an enormous trend – both the multiple instances and the more and more journalists. I can practically see them right in front of me.

    And amazingly no traditional schools have ever had any instances in which people did something wrong, absconded with money, or provided a poor education for kids. There also has never been a time in which a union leader made a large salary by taking money from teachers. So you can see why charters are evil and traditional schools and unions are great, as noted by a growing body of journalism.

  3. First, I want to thank Linda for adding absolutely nothing to the substance of this article. Now, back to reality. When listing the Graduation Rates of the Nation’s 50 Largest School Districts, Los Angeles ranks as the 48th worst of 50.
    The Graduation Rate crisis is extraordinarily concentrated, with a few school systems accounting for a disproportionately large number of students.

    The city of Los Angeles is an “epicenter” of students who fail to graduate. In 2010, the number of non-graduates is projected from LA Schools are 42,174 students. The next largest school system after LAUSD is smaller by 41% with a non-graduate number of 17,479 students. (CDE & DOE).

    The fact that ICEF was graduating students and sending them to college is admirable. That they did so in South Los Angeles, under the nose of LAUSD, is remarkable. That those who propose to support minority students, and offer solutions to get them college, are failing to support these 4,750 K-12 students is abandonment of epic proportions.

    It is also a terrible reflection of how this society feels about minority students in urban America.

  4. If you care about the education of minority students, please join me and others in making certain there is strict oversight of tax money meant for these students. Certainly this is something of “substance” for which we can all agree.

  5. Linda, the October 5 LA Daily News cover story reads : “Just a week into the new school year, Los Angeles Unified officials are already mired in budget troubles and have just three weeks to figure out how to erase a $1.1 billion deficit projected over the next three years.”

    Forget about the fact that LAUSD’s budget crisis, on a percentage basis, is far greater than anything ICEF did.

    The huge difference is that ICEF was sending students to college. LAUSD had a drop-out rate exceeding 50% and was sending more students to prison than college.

    It appears that the only “oversight” issue at ICEF was that the State of CA did not pass a budget, the unions made sure that charter schools received $ 1,000 less per student than traditional public schools, and that LAUSD offered no assistance to these students in offering low interest rate financing during the State Budget impasse. In addition, LAUSD provides zero support for charter facilities (see Prop 39 Lawsuit). This forced ICEF to borrow money at high interest rates.

    If ICEF and LAUSD were hanging off a cliff, I would save ICEF. They do a far superior job of serving the students.

  6. Yes, there is a lot of mismanagement in huge districts, such as Los Angeles. However, in smaller districts, such as the ones where I worked and where my sons attended school, there is sharp oversight of the money, with little going to waste. Embezzlement and conflicts of interest did occur, but were usually exposed quickly.

    How about this: Let’s all advocate for careful oversight of tax money going to ALL public schools, both charter and traditional. Can we agree with that?

  7. Of course I can agree, but for you to state “There aren’t too many things worse than stealing money from poor school children” is reckless. In the context of this post, who said anyone was “stealing” money? If you know something, than call hotline 800-544-6861 or log onto the Web at

    Otherwise, be careful that you aren’t sued for libel & defamation. The internet may provide you with some anonymity, but will not protect you from libel. (Re-read your terms and conditions for posting at Eduwonk).

    Let us agree that we will not make any more reckless comments that defame anyone without proof. Can we agree with that?

  8. “Eduwonk” introduced the topic of people making money off of charters. In my state there has been a great deal of fraud in regard to charter schools. I will admit this has happened in districts in large urban districts as well. This is what I am referring to when I talk about stealing money from schoolchildren. I am certainly not pointing to anyone on this blog. I just reread my comments and in no instance do I mention names. I am simply responding to a topic that was introduced.

    However, if the shoe fits……

  9. Some examples:

    Albuquerque charter school principal pays himself $204,000 to oversee 500 students. The average principal’s salary in much bigger ABQ public schools is about $80,000

    New Orleans Charter School administrator earns $200,000+ not including car allowance and bonuses to manage a school with about 1200 students

    Arizona charter schools refuse to disclose salaries

    And so on.

  10. It is unfortunate that the students of South LA are underserved, underrepresented, and underfunded. My posts have been about the children, and how an avenue to college may be denied them. A new generation of educators needs to emerge that will put the students first. Linda, you are making a wonderful contribution to solving this problem…staying retired.

  11. Mr. Thomas, have you ever noticed how when a poster makes a strong point, the “opponent” often resorts to name-calling and/or insults? I have.

    Did you read Eduwonk’s article? Did you read my posts? Mr. Rotherman brought up the topic of “making money off kids” to which I responded. I was referring to the oft reported charter frauds I read about in the newspapers. I agreed with you that this sometimes happens in traditional public schools as well.

    I am also very concerned that a charter school association in New York sued the state because they didn’t want financial oversight of their schools. Doesn’t this concern you? Is it even legal for an institution supported by tax money to refuse oversight? It shouldn’t be.

    I don’t know anyone on this blog, including Mr. Rotherman (other than the fact that he’s a writer) so I certainly was not talking about anyone in particular. However, the fact that you thought so is inspiring me to do a little research. Your words have implied more than you probably intended.

    Please reread my posts. My point in every post is that we should protect tax money intended for children.

    I’ll admit to being a staunch supporter of public schools, a great American institution and the bedrock of our democracy. Yes, I want to improve them, especially for the children of the poor, but I believe we can do that without destroying them. To me, this is a good example of the saying “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.”

  12. This was a fun comment thread to read.


    “have you ever noticed how when a poster makes a strong point, the “opponent” often resorts to name-calling and/or insults? I have.”

    As have I (happens every time, actually), but unfortunately for you, you haven’t given a strong argument yet. Instead, you malign charter schools because you’ve seen “multiple instances of charter school abuses”, and you remind us that “more and more journalists are reporting on these abuses”. You assert that you are only protecting student interests with these vague implications, and yet the charter school referenced in this very blog post has posted fantastic results.

    So why the libelous rhetoric against charter schools? And if traditional public schools also have their share of such abuses, do you intend to similarly malign traditional schools as thieves? Should the next big school documentary be entitled, “Waiting for Robin Hood?”

  13. I can not believe that they do not spend more money on education. The results are there on the ICEF. Why wouldn’t you want to spend the money?
    The state needs to see what they, (ICEF) are doing and and follow them. Our children are worth investing money on.

  14. “I am also very concerned that a charter school association in New York sued the state because they didn’t want financial oversight of their schools. Doesn’t this concern you? Is it even legal for an institution supported by tax money to refuse oversight? It shouldn’t be.”

    This is a deceptive retelling of the facts. These schools already have financial oversight. The lawsuit was to prevent an additional body from conducting additional audits.

  15. Rotherham–great post. Most logical one that I have read in a while. How about another one on how we can get rid of that other 10%?

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