Thursday, October 11, 2007

Accountability Is For Public Schools

The Washington Post reports today that the Government Accountability Office has found that the first federally funded K-12 school voucher program designed to send low income children in Washington D.C. to "better-performing private schools" has allowed students to take classes in "unsuitable learning environments" and from teachers without bachelor's degrees.

The GAO report scrutinized the $12.9 million D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which has 1,900 students and 58 schools participating, and found that the program has failed to check whether schools are accredited or have all the required operating permits:

In a random sample of 18 schools reviewed by the GAO, two lacked occupancy permits, and four lacked permits needed for buildings used for educational purposes. At least seven of the 18 schools were certified as child development centers but not as private schools. In one case, a school was operating in a space designed for a retail store, the report says.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program also allows schools to "self-certify" whether they are in compliance with rules and regulations.

The Washington Scholarship Fund, a private entity made up of education reformers which oversees the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, told GAO investigators that it has conducted oversight visits to 42 different schools, but the GAO could only confirm 1 actual visit.

Between the "self-certification" rules and the lack of oversight from the Washington Scholarship Fund, many of the schools scrutinized by the GAO were found to have misled parents about school amenities and resources.

Now here in New York City, Mayor Moneybags and Chancellor Klein regularly educate children in contaminated factories and toxic waste dumps, so the GAO report citing the voucher program for allowing kids to take classes in "unsuitable learning environments" wouldn't raise too many eyebrows at the NYCDOE, but even Moneybags and Klein insist upon teachers having bachelor's degrees.

But apparently the education reformers at the Washington Scholarship Fund are a little more open-minded about the definition of "highly-qualified teachers" and have decided that a high school diploma is enough.

We haven't seen much outrage about this report from the usual suspects of "Public Schools Suck/Charter Schools & Voucher Systems Are Great" contingent, but you know they would be screaming to holy hell if a public school system somewhere in the U.S. was allowing teachers without bachelor's degrees to educate children.

Once again, we see how accountability and oversight are only for traditional public schools and unionized public school teachers.
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