Wednesday, December 02, 2009

“Growing at an unsustainable rate”

That ‘s what Governor Gutshot and Minnesota Republicans said about said about General Assistance Medical Care in Minnesota when Gutshot hived it off the budget. But there have been reports in the Star Tribune this week about another, er, growth that he and his Commissioner of Education, Alice Seagren, don’t seem to care much about:

There are about 150 charter schools in Minnesota, and annual lease aid payments have climbed from $1.1 million to $42.4 million over the last decade, making the program one of the fastest growing expenses in the state.

It should actually say it’s one of the fastest growing expenses in state government.

The charter school program is out of control. From the same Strib article:

Minnesota lawmakers will begin probing the use of state lease aid money that charter schools have used to fuel a building spree paid for with high-cost junk bonds.

To curtail "abuse" of the fast-growing program, lawmakers will begin a series of hearings next week aimed at tightening controls and reducing costs for charter school projects, Sen. Kathy Saltzman, D-Woodbury, announced Tuesday.

A recent Star Tribune investigation revealed that some school insiders have benefited from questionable fees, and showed how charter school projects moved forward with little of the vetting that typically accompanies other public works. One school project was being led by a convicted sex offender until last month, when the newspaper exposed [so to speak] his past.

It is no coincidence that the growth has taken place during the administration of Tim Pawlenty and his two Commissioners of Education, Cheri Pierson-Yecke and the aforesaid Alice Seagen.

Here’s Nick Coleman on charters penned in August:

Back-to-school supplies are on sale and the annual report on schools that are not making adequate progress is due out any day (expect another rise in falling performance), so this is a good time to look at the performance of Minnesota's charter school movement, which was going to lead us all into a bright 21st century for better, smarter public education.

Oops. Not doing so great there, either.

Improving learning outcomes for students of color? Nope.

Outperforming traditional public schools on achievement tests? Nope.

Pointing the way for the education of the future? Not so much.

It would be easy to argue that the charter school movement has fallen flat, and I have said as much before. But the charter school crusade has grown too large and expensive to dismiss. It is eating into severely limited funding for education and has blurred the lines between church and state (and not just at one Muslim school, but among many charters loosely basing their educational approaches on religious values whose adherents think they should get public tax dollars to inculcate them).

Be sure to read the comments to the column to get the full flavor of the delusional nuts who are charter school fans.

It is interesting to Spot that Joe Nathan and his merry band of education buccaneers at the “Center for School Change” at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute are leaving the Institute. John Brandl, a former dean at the Institute and the person who provided the political cover for the Center, died recently. Brandl, a private school product himself, was an early proponent of transfusions of public school money to essentially private schools.

And look what it has wrought.

Spot has always thought it was an odd and dishonorable thing for the Humphrey Institute, the flagship public policy institution in the state, to house a band of brigands and pickpockets.

But never fear; the Humphrey Institute’s gain is Macalester’s loss!

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