Charter school finance and real estate advisor Illinois Facilities Fund (IFF)
issued a report that recommends major disruptions for children and families
in 37 public schools in Washington, D.C. This latest report mimics IFF reports
about Denver, St. Louis, and Chicago. An IFF report may be headed your way
D.C.'s Deputy Mayor for Education released the IFF report, "Quality
Schools: Every Child, Every School, Every Neighborhood," earlier this
The report identifies a "service gap" between the "supply and demand" for "performing
seats" in the District's K-12 schools. The District administration is using
the report to recommend closing local public schools and adding so-called "turnarounds."
The District of Columbia currently has 56 charter operators and 41% of its
students in schools governed by private boards. This movement to private operators
reflects one of the major thrusts of the self-declared "education reformers," that
is, aiming to end local democratic control of schools.
The IFF report recommends closing local public schools and turning them over
to "high performing charter operators." But in fact, the charter operators
have not proven themselves to be "high performing."
Experts who reviewed
IFF's analysis conclude that its "flawed methodology" led to findings that
misrepresented both the strengths and weaknesses in D.C.'s schools, as well as
recommendations that fail to address the real challenges the schools are facing.
Reviewers Michael Siegel of Public and Environmental Finance Associates and Mary
Filardo of the 21st Century School Fund agree
with the direction of the IFF report's title: every child and every neighborhood
in the District needs quality schools. But they assert that IFF's study will
not help the District reach that goal. The Siegel-Filardo review comes to the
Unfortunately, the study's methodology, analysis, and recommendations are
so seriously flawed, they fail to provide a valid basis for any actionable
If IFF's proposals are implemented, the reviewers believe that:
The immediate effect would be to halt and hamstring scheduled modernizations
of schools throughout the District. The [proposals] would cause unwarranted
disruption and uncertainty for thousands of students and families, while reducing
accountability and fostering public distrust.
The reviewers also point out that IFF's proposals would "close and transfer
governance of dozens of [public] schools to charter operators," and turn over
control of these public real estate assets---the land and school buildings
themselves---to a charter board for use and disposition as it sees fit, with
IFF's report credits the pro-voucher Walton
(WalMart) Foundation with a generous donation for the study. Diane
Ravitch has written about Walton: "This foundation is known for its love
of all things private, and its antipathy for unions, government regulation, and
public education." According to Walton's
accounting of its grants, it gave "$2.2
million to IFF, an organization that recently drafted a report to redesign the
District of Columbia's public schools by increased privatization," Ravitch reported.
IFF's recommendations mirror similar school closing and privatization reports
for other school districts, including Denver, St. Louis, and Chicago. In Chicago,
recently announced school closings
are being challenged in court, where plaintiffs filed a new complaint
on March 28, 2012, seeking to prevent most of the closings.
Shutting down struggling schools has become a high-profile strategy of education "reformers" across
the nation, according to the Annenberg
Institute for School Reform. But there is abundant evidence that
closures harm students and communities. At the same time, educators from
around the country continue to put forward data and compelling stories about
their successful work to improve
student performance without closing schools.
See, also, "The
Way Forward: From Sanctions to Supports," urging New York City to adopt proven
and effective interventions to improve schools, instead of continuing its failed
policy of closing schools. After 10 years of trying, the City's experience shows
that closing schools "has not and cannot successfully address the needs" of the
schools or the students. The Way Forward's authors press New York City to "refocus" its
efforts on successful interventions.