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Preview: Comments on: Up Bubbles the Charter Schools Question

Comments on: Up Bubbles the Charter Schools Question

Peace, Justice and Hockey

Last Build Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:57:42 +0000


By: Kaaren

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 21:33:48 +0000

Hello, I've worked in public education my entire career, the past six in the public charter school arena. I direct Oregon's Charter Schools Development Center, a state-wide non-profit that provides technical assistance to charter developers, operators and district sponsors, as well as policy/legislative work ( . I have a daughter who is nearly four, and regularly read Urban Mamas, which is how I ended up here. I posted some comments on charter schools on the UM website, as well, so I will not duplicate those comments here. Given my professional work, I know a lot about charter school issues, so would like to make a few comments based on this strand: 1. One of the posts here cited that PPS spends $9442 per student. Let me clarify that charter schools DO NOT get 80% of $9,442! Charter schools get 80% of the basic State School Fund, and the total PPS spending includes more funding streams than that. The PPS charter rate (for 2007-08) is $5,942 ( This means that $5,942 is the "starting point," i.e., charters receive $4,754 for students in grades K-8 and $5,645 for students in grades 9-12. This means that charter students receive approximately HALF the funds that students in other public schools in PPS receive. 2. Oregon's charter school law (ORS Chapter 338) requires that ALL charter school employees participate in PERS. Charter school employees receive the same PERS benefits (i.e., rates) as other public school teachers and other public employees. 3. ORS 338 stipulates that the resident district is responsible to provide all special education services for students (i.e., IEPs) and that they retain the funding to do so. The district where the child lives keeps the special ed funding and the responsibility to provide the services within the IEP. A couple of districts in Oregon contract with charter schools to provide special ed services, and pass through some of those funds to do so. However, the vast majority of districts keep the special ed funds and provide the services outlined in IEPs. PPS sends special ed specialists to the charter schools they sponsor (FTE levels and types of specialists depend on the # of students with IEPs and the nature of the services). The feds fund special ed students at twice the per-pupil level as regular ed students; however, districts may only receive the double-funding for a maximum of 11% of its students. Special ed is complicated and fraught with legal and implementation issues. The way it works with charters is not necessarily ideal or consistent across the state. This is an issue that comes up in nearly every meeting I'm in (and I spend most of my life in meetings!). One issue that needs to be solved: Most students on IEPs in Oregon have learning disabilities, which don't typically include pull-out services by specialists, rather involves making accomodations and modifications within a "regular", while charters don't receive funds (or, often even training) from the student's resident district, they are expected to properly meet the needs of learning disabled students in their classrooms. 4. Charter school employee participation in a union is voluntary, but not mandatory (as it is in traditional public schools); this is the key difference in terms of the union. Charter school staff may form their own collective bargaining units (so it would be impossible for a developing charter to already have a union UNLESS it had formal arrangements for its staff to be employed by its sponsoring district...which about 1/3 of Oregon charter schools do, but none that are sponsored by PPS). 5. PPS doesn't have the same type of "control" over approving new charters as it does over closing its own schools. ORS 338 prescribes specific processes and criteria that district boards must use to do a "good faith" evaluation of a proposed char[...]

By: Wacky Mommy

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 02:46:57 +0000

They're discussing charter schools, pros and cons, over at UrbanMamas, if anyone wants to weigh in.

By: Wacky Mommy

Fri, 05 Oct 2007 22:29:30 +0000

Thank you for explaining the OT maze -- now I know what the staff means when they tell me, "We're looking into getting OT for him/her." I'm thinking they mean, "Be quiet, Wacky Mommy."

By: Rene

Fri, 05 Oct 2007 21:49:19 +0000

Hi Wacky Thanks for the numbers! I doubt the difference makes up for the cost. I can answer a few of your questions, being a parent who has fought for an IEP, and trust me, it can be an ugly battle. First of all, there are parents and advocates who feel PPS is reluctant to give IEPs because they give parents more power. As a parent I can push for the "necessary and appropriate" education for my daughter with an IEP, but if I didn't have one, I would have much less power. You ask about OT, PT, speech, etc. Theoretically PPS offers these services. But the truth is they are seldom provided because they are so hard to get. When my daughter was at Chief Joseph she should have qualified for OT (Occupational Therapy). However, there was not an in-house OT. The OT travelled school to school. I requested several times for her to do an assessment. The ball got dropped. Months passed. I asked again. I was told the last OT had left and there was a new one. I asked again. Finally the new OT managed to observe my daughter. A full year had passed. She didn't even do a real assessment: she watched her in class. She reported back (another long wait) that she didn't feel my daughter needed help. This was an irony, because my daughter had previously received years of OT at Providence and trust me, they felt it was needed. Had I pushed it, there was no place for her to work with my daughter, and so the woman would have taken her on the playground for therapy, where others could see. My daughter did not want to get stigmatized this way. By this time it was all moot, because I had gotten tired of waiting (children can't wait, sorry) and began taking my daughter to a clinic where I knew for sure she could be seen weekly, though our insurance did not cover it and it was a huge dent in our budget. Most families could not afford to do this. Another point: the schools are excellent at identifying which students are behind, but they do not offer any diagnostics as to WHY. At best they will give an IQ test, which offers a limited picture. We had to spend thousands outside of PPS to get the diagnosis for our daughter, which included multiple learning disabilities, dyslexia, vision problems (saccades), sensory intergration disorder, and other issues. Poor parents can't do this. But getting the diagnosis was the only way to get the IEP, under the "other health impaired" category. If we hadn't spent the money, no IEP. You see the Catch 22. There are a lot of kids who are failing and no one is trying to find out the real reasons why, which is so sad, because some can be treated. Often schools shove them in SMART under the assumption that the parents are probably the problem and not reading to them at home. I agree with you, all community schools should offer contained rooms as well as resource rooms, counselors and psychologists equipped to help IEP students. Steve: I think parents often hope that charters will be more friendly and open to IEP students but I know of several who have had to leave schools like Trillium because the staff was simply not trained on addressing their needs. It is easy for untrained teachers to assume a student isn't trying. As Diane Malbin says, we need to "try differently, not harder."

By: Wacky Mommy

Fri, 05 Oct 2007 18:55:04 +0000

Rene, you already know most of what I'm going to write here, most likely. Sorry I don't know more, but I've just recently started digging into this topic. I don't know about the money part at all, but I've heard the district gives $7,000-$8,000 per student for kids who are special ed, compared to what, $5k-$6 for a typical kid? Does anyone have exact numbers? Sarah Carlin Ames, are you out there? (I've also heard that the the district is allotting $12,000 per student to the girls at Tubman. I was wondering, if you have a kid who is special ed, and they're at Tubman, then is the amount raised? Does that equal more help and services? Aides?) I also know parents who have fought to get in-class aides for their kids, and who have brought in lawyers to help, and sometimes even that isn't enough. Non-white kids, as always, especially those without monied parents, get pushed to the bottom of the heap even more quickly if they're special ed. Kids with special ed needs who have single parents who are low-income, and too shy to advocate for their children? Too tough for words. One parent told me that she was told by school staff that her son, who has Asperger's, would never have an aide, so don't bother asking. She asked me, "Some kids have aides? Is that true? I thought there were no aides." Another mom I know (this was several years back) had a 12-year-old daughter who is severely autistic and low-functioning (needs help in the bathroom). The mom (single, not much money) was trying to find a lawyer who would take her case pro-bono -- her daughter's teacher was having other students help her daughter in the bathroom with personal things. She needed an aide -- not a peer. All I know is what I'm hearing through the grapevine, but it seems that many of the neighborhood schools are doing away with special ed classrooms (or "contained classrooms" (I'm not crazy about that term) and trying to segregate the special ed kids at several schools, instead. In N/NE, we have Peninsula, Alameda, and King all with contained classrooms. I'm sure there are others, but these seem to be the schools where most of the special ed kids are being herded. Back to the need for equalization across all neighborhood schools -- if you're a family that has typical kids, and one child with special needs, and you're having to drive the one kid to this school, for services, and the others to another school, and there's no time to walk because your schedule is tight or you have to be to work -- it causes stress. Especially when the schools' arrival/dismissal times are exactly the same. Yes, sometimes school buses are available for kids with specialed, but someone needs to be there to get the student on and off the bus. I would like to see a contained classroom in each neighborhood school. (For those of you unfamiliar with special ed, contained classes are a student's main classroom, and are not to be confused with Resource Rooms or Centers, where students meet for one-on-one sessions with special ed teachers.) I'd also like to know more about how/when kids qualify for occupational, physical and speech therapy, and where they get these services, if anyone has any information on that.

By: Steve

Fri, 05 Oct 2007 17:00:26 +0000

I don't have a ready answer for this. If there is additional money that follows IEP kids when they transfer, it is not broken out in the enrollment profiles published by PPS each October. I do know anecdotally that families with IEP children are refused admittance to some schools and get bounced around by the district. There is no question that poverty-affected children are more often identified as special ed. There are many factors here, including cultural bias in tests and the legitimate factors you cite. It would be an interesting study to look at the percentage of IEP kids at "red zone" schools vs. the district at large. I'm guessing we'd see a much higher percentage. I know one family that has their IEP kid at a charter school, because they were not happy with the services they were getting at their neighborhood school. Their son is diagnosed with autism, and is fairly high-functioning, yet the school refused to mainstream him, despite the fact that he is reading above grade level. Instead, they warehoused him in a contained classroom with very low functioning kids. They spoke with the director of the proposed New Harvest charter, who initially told them they did special ed. The parents, confused, thought she meant it was a special ed. charter. No, said the director, all kids are special. Obviously, she doesn't get it. While there may be some charter operators that do get it, it is unlikely they would be willing to divert precious funds in the amount required to properly handle IEP children. They've found another charter that seems to be doing a better job than the neighborhood school, but it's far from ideal. Again, I don't know how the funding works. I do know that some families that go to private school come into public schools for services, so there is obviously some kind of mandate. Whether it comes with funding, I don't know. I'd recommend calling the district office on this one.

By: Rene

Fri, 05 Oct 2007 04:53:40 +0000

Hi Steve I have a question that may be a bit off the track, but having read a few of these threads I didn't see it addressed. My apologies if I missed it: How does the number of special ed (iep) students play into the money bleed and charter issue? As you know, historically lower income schools have higher percentages of spec. ed students, for numerous reasons. I have been told it ranges from higher percentage of foster children in working class areas (I was told by one DHS worker that their stats show working class parents are far more likely to foster or adopt than upper class parents, and so we have clusters of foster parents in areas like North and Gresham and less in LO or NW), as well as cultural and physical causes of delays, including higher degree of lead poisoning in areas like North, environmental deprivation, etc. As a footnote I am NOT saying all foster kids are spec. ed, but I am noting they are more likely to be so. Many foster kids, for instance, are drug or alcohol effected. Or suffer shaken baby syndrome, ptsd from abuse, etc. So in an area like North, where there are a lot of foster kids, a lot of poor kids, you are going to have more special ed students. As the parent of a spec. ed child myself, I know it costs a lot more to educate them, since my daughter requires resource room help, one on one assistance, and so forth. She attends Ockley, a red zone school. I have been very impressed with the quality of her education at Ockley, by the way, precisely because she has teachers who have experience with her needs. So...does the district allot enough extra funds to pay for these students or does it come out of the already threadbare hide of our already poor school? I've been wondering about this for ages. I had a teacher tell me once that certain schools, especially those in North, are tagged as spec. ed schools, and the district buses kids from other areas whose schools are not willing to provide for them. So the school then gets even more spec. ed students which drive up the costs, while the better funded schools get rid of their higher-expense students. Has this factored into your research? This is one reason I have difficulties with charters myself, because I have yet to see one that has the training or resources to educate a variety of children, including those my like my daughter.

By: Anthony

Thu, 20 Sep 2007 17:32:52 +0000

Anecdotally, I can state that the two charter schools my wife worked at in Minneapolis treated their teachers like shit. One of them fired her right at the end of the first semester for getting too many complaints from parents. What were the parents complaining about? That she made the kids work too hard, gave them too much homework, and that she wanted to involve parents in their kids' education--some parents felt that was the exclusive realm of the teacher. Then my wife had trouble getting her last paycheck, and had to threaten a conciliation court (small claims) lawsuit before finally being paid. Hmm, I wonder if any of this had to do with the fact that there was no union protection...

By: marcia

Thu, 20 Sep 2007 06:11:32 +0000

An e-mail from Heather who is too busy to Post: Thanks, Marcia. We will do PERS and benefits. They may not be at par but we will also provide free/sliding scale alternative health services as we are a health focused school. I hope this helps. Heather

By: Steve

Wed, 19 Sep 2007 05:03:08 +0000

You should hear how she talks to me.