Charter Schools ignore anti-bullying law.

Filed in Delaware by on February 20, 2014

Lt. Governor Matt Denn and Deputy Attorney General Patricia Dailey Lewis (Biden is again MIA, but nothing to see there, everything is fine, Biden for Governor) released the state report on school compliance with the new anti-bullying rules. Here is the News Journal lede:

Most public school districts are complying with new state laws aimed at battling bullying, but fewer than half of charter schools have adopted new cyberbullying rules. And some schools are not sufficiently reporting incidents of bullying to parents, according to a report released by Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and the state Attorney General’s Office.

The report looks at how schools are implementing laws passed in 2012 that placed more responsibility with schools for battling cyberbullying and strengthened requirements for reporting incidents to parents and the state. Denn said the report, released Wednesday, was the state’s way of putting schools on notice.

“I don’t want to be overly critical of our schools, because this intensive scrutiny is relatively new,” he said. “But we are telling them that this needs to be an important focus.”

Emphasis mine. Do these Charter Schools, who receive more and more taxpayer money to the detriment of our already existing public schools thanks to dubious legislation passed last year, think state laws and rules do not apply to them? Fewer than half have even adopted the new rules? That’s pretty outrageous.

Now, my title to this post is designed to highlight the Charter School aspect of this story, because I think that lede is buried. Yes, it is right up front there in the first sentence, but Charter Schools are not again mentioned until 12 paragraphs later. The NJ story focuses on how the public schools, who have at the very least implemented the anti-bullying program, are complying with it.

Charter schools were not nearly as consistent, with less than half implementing the policy, the report said. Several others did not tell the state how they had explained the changes to parents.

“We will work with our schools to help ensure that these laws are adopted and enforced so that all of our students are learning in an environment where they feel safe and supported,” Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network, said in a statement.

Apparently you are not doing a good job, Ms. Massett. Fewer than half? In school grading parlance, that is worse than an F. Indeed, such rampant non-adoption, when the public schools have nearly all adopted, begs the question of whether there is a concerted effort not to adopt these laws. And if that is the case, we, the taxpayers of Delaware, would like to demand our money back, please.

Here is Lt. Governor Denn in a Facebook post this morning, focusing his comments towards compliance with the law, rather than mere adoption of the policy by charter schools.

We don’t seem to have gotten the basic message across sufficiently to our schools: if your school has a bullying incident, you need to call the parents of the kids involved. Period. It’s the law, and it’s the right thing to do. Second, an alarming percentage of our bullying incidents are based on kids’ disabilities or gender identity, and we need to work with our schools to address the fact that these children are being targeted.

I assume if Mr. Denn is this direct with public school compliance, he was even more blunt in private with charter school adoption. We can only hope.

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  1. pandora says:

    Well… when the main point in selling/promoting your charter school is that you tell parents to send their child to your “safe/bully free” charter and get them out of those “dangerous” public schools why would you comply with this law? Why would you supply data that undermines your sales pitch?

    And the “safety/no bullying here” argument is pretty much all charters have left, because the “better education for less money” ship has sailed.

    I’ve said this before… Charters want to be public schools only when it suits them (taxpayer money). When it comes to transparency, or how they use their leftover transportation funds, or how they don’t have to take (or keep) every student then they don’t want to play by the public school rules. That has to stop.

  2. cassandra_m says:

    So what happens when a parent or student sues the school over bullying? Who has the liability — the school? It seems like one way to incentivize Charters to get with the program is to make any lawsuit support (if it exists) conditional on clear compliance with the anti-bullying policy.

  3. Davy says:

    @pandora:

    Do you oppose magnet schools in general?

  4. pandora says:

    Charters, magnets, and choice (as well as the Neighborhood Schools Act) created a perfect storm. All three benefit* the few at the expense of everyone else. They create public/private schools funded by the taxpayer. Meanwhile, public schools must serve those students (usually highest needs) that charters, magnets and choice won’t take. (Remember, choice only works if the parent provides transportation, so by nature choice is limiting.)

    I have a problem with charters and magnets forming their own, separate schools. I would rather see these programs (not schools) housed in our public schools.

    And choice has always been abused in certain districts – isn’t RCCD building an addition on one high school when plenty of space exists at their other two? Wasteful.

    *As the data comes in, we’re finding out that most charters aren’t “benefiting” their students educationally.

  5. Davy says:

    No doubt, public schools “lose” resources when students choose to attend publicly-financed alternatives. But let me be specific:

    (1) Public schools do not lose resources on a per student basis.

    (2) Public schools must spend a higher proportion of their resources on fixed costs. That is, public schools’ average fixed costs rise.

    (3) In general, the students who remain in public schools are more costly to teach than the students who fled. In other words, public schools’ average variable costs rise.

    In all, public schools’ average costs rise, although their average revenue is unchanged.

    How could we respond?

    (1) We could close underutilized public schools and thereby reduce their average fixed costs; if fewer students attend public schools, then we need fewer public schools. Or we can co-locate publicly-financed alternatives with public schools.

    (2) I note that charter and magnet schools do not benefit the few at the many’s expense. Instead, these publicly-financed alternatives only take the implicit subsidy that “better” students provide (cost to teach < revenue). We could redistribute this implicit subsidy to public schools.

    (3) We could close publicly-financed alternatives and return their students to public schools.

    Option 3 ignores the status quo ante's shortcomings.

    I will reiterate what I have said before (but not above): in Delaware, the State must provide better oversight of charter schools (which are, in most cases, de facto magnet schools). The State must set goals and then hold charter schools accountable if they fall short.

    In my experience, a supplementary program is no substitute for a dedicated school. Apparently, you disagree.

  6. pandora says:

    Apparently, I disagree with what? When I refer to putting supplemental “special interest” programs back into public schools as public school programs I’m referring to a public school with a strong arts program, tons of AP courses, STEM programs, an IB program, etc.. Charters and magnets usually focus on one of these programs and then shape their populations accordingly. I would want all these things in our public schools. That way every student would have access to them.

  7. Davy says:

    Could each public school provide the same opportunities as Cab Calloway? Are there no economies of scale?

  8. pandora says:

    I find setting kids on a specific interest path like that offered at Cab (and other magnets and charters) extremely restrictive. What happens when your 9th grade future actor changes their mind and decides they want to be an engineer when they enter 10th grade?

  9. Davy says:

    @pandora:

    Enrichment is not necessarily restrictive. Magnet schools must still meet State standards. The question is whether a Cab Calloway student would be “locked-in” after (s)he graduates. Could the student major in engineering after (s)he graduates from Cab Calloway?

    Further, the State should allow students and their parents to decide whether a special-interest school is right for them. If every option meets the State’s minimum standards, then the State has no reason to deny the choice completely.

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