NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cheating Charter Schools

September 16, 2010

The new $10 billion federal teacher bailout will be dispensed in a way that discriminates against charter school, says the Wall Street Journal.

The Department of Education initially said money from the Education Jobs Fund could go only to teachers and others employed by a local education agency or school district, but following complaints, the administration said it will allow charters with employees not hired by school districts to get the federal funds.  Many charter school teachers are employees of management firms rather than the school district, so the guidelines would have excluded more than 1,000 charters nationwide (serving around 400,000 students).

But this workaround still interferes with the autonomy of these schools, upends their hiring models and undermines state laws that allow charters to contract with education management organizations.

  • To take one example, National Heritage Academies (NHA) operates 67 schools in eight states.
  • Charter schools in Michigan that hire through NHA can offer instructors 401(k) plans.
  • Under the administration's guidelines, charters that want the bailout money would have to do their own hiring and contribute to a public pension that takes nearly 20 cents of every dollar.

Administration officials say their hands are tied because the legislation stipulates that the money go to the school districts.  In fact, the law is silent on contracting with outside management organizations, says the Journal.

Many charter operators suspect that the real problem is that most charter school teachers aren't unionized.

Source: "Cheating Charter Schools," Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2010.

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