Making the Child Tax Credit Fully Refundable: A Primary Strategy for Closing Opportunity Gaps

Why has this public education blog been relentlessly covering President Biden’s struggle to push Congress to pass a Build Back Better bill that repairs and expands the Child Tax Credit?  Our society has for decades tolerated an appallingly high child poverty rate. The relevance of this injustice to public education has, however, been poorly explored. Child poverty undermines children’s engagement and participation at school.

There is broad agreement that among the most substantial ways to address childhood economic inequality is by reforming and expanding the Child Tax Credit, a federal program initiated in 1997 that has helped middle and even upper income families, but has left out the poorest families whose parents pay too little in taxes to benefit fully from the program.

The National Education Policy Center’s Kevin Welner explains the connection of a child’s economic circumstances with that same child’s school achievement: “Those of us who work in or with schools never question the enormous impact that a teacher or school can have on a student. But this essential truth coexists with another truth: that differences between schools account for a relatively small portion of measured outcome differences. That is, opportunity gaps in the U.S arise primarily outside of schools. This should not be a surprise. Poverty, concentrated poverty, and racialized poverty are pervasive features of America. School improvement efforts cannot directly help children and their families overcome decades of policies that perpetuate systemic racism and economic inequality. When children are born in the United States, their educational and life outcomes can all be predicted based on their parents’ education, income and wealth. Compared to the Scandinavian countries and other so-called Western democracies like Canada, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand, American children are inordinately trapped in intergenerational poverty. Inequality in the U.S. is stark and enduring.”

A dozen years ago, the Schott Foundation for Public Education published Lost Opportunity: A 50 State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America and launched its urgently important Opportunity to Learn Network, whose goal has been to define the difference between school achievement gaps and larger opportunity gaps. In the 2002, No Child Left Behind Act, the federal government had demanded that public schools close school achievement gaps as measured by standardized test scores. The Schott Foundation advocated that policymakers address opportunity gaps in children’s lives at school and in the hours children spend outside of school. The Schott Foundation has supported projects addressing impoverished children’s lack of access to the kind of supports economically privileged children take for granted.

An expanded Child Tax Credit—included temporarily in the 2021 American Rescue Plan COVID relief bill, and passed last November in the U.S. House of Representatives’ version of Build Back Better—addressed child poverty by increasing the per-child amount of the Child Tax Credit, making payments monthly to help parents living paycheck to paycheck, and making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, meaning that even parents with little or no income could receive the funds.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains why that last provision is so important: “Build Back Better would permanently extend a provision of the 2021 American Rescue Plan making the Child Tax Credit ‘fully refundable,’ meaning that children in families with the lowest incomes receive the same amount as children in higher-income families. Previously, 27 million children—including roughly one-third of all children, about half of Black and Latino children, and half of children in rural areas—received less than the full credit or no credit at all because their families’ incomes were too low.  Full refundability marks an important step in reducing racial disparities in income and poverty rooted in this nation’s long history of racism and discrimination, which has created large gaps in both opportunities and outcomes in education, employment, health, and housing.”

Because Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has repeatedly declared that he will not support a Build Back Better if it includes expansion of the Child Tax Credit, many have assumed that expanding the Child Tax Credit and making it fully refundable cannot happen in today’s U.S. Senate.  However, a stalwart group of Democratic Senators has been working to keep the issue alive. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, and Senators Michael Bennet (CO), Cory Booker (NJ), Raphael Warnock (GA), and Ron Wyden (OR) sent a letter to President Biden declaring their continued support for making permanent last year’s reforms to the Child Tax Credit. They were joined at a recent news conference by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT) and Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA) promising that they will not stop working to prevent the rollback of last year’s temporary reforms to the Child Tax Credit.

Researchers and reporters have also continued to examine the facts around arguments made by Manchin and by Republicans in the U.S. Senate.  ProPublica‘s Eli Hager describes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) claiming that the 1996 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families law that replaced welfare has addressed child poverty and made reforms in the Child Tax Credit unnecessary. Hager responds: “They are simply wrong about the success of TANF.  It is a program distinguished by failure. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the Clinton-era welfare reform law that created TANF, which inspired me and my colleagues at ProPublica to investigate the current state of cash assistance in this country.”

Hager explains that while TANF was passed as a federal program, it is administered by the states: “Some states… avoid spending TANF dollars to help struggling moms, dads and kids. In Arizona, only 6% of families below the poverty line are able to obtain assistance from the program, partly because the state uses more than $150 million a year of its (federal) TANF funding to instead pay for child welfare investigations of many of the very same poor parents, as well as the foster care costs of removing their children….” “In New Mexico… low-income single mothers applying for TANF are forced, in a relic of colonial ‘bastardy’ laws, to first identify the father of their child (and his eye color, license plate number and parents’ addresses), and also to recall under penalty of perjury the exact date when they got pregnant, before they can get a small amount of cash assistance…. When a state has all of this information, it can then go after the dads for child support—much of which the government pockets. (ProPublica found that in 2020, nationally, more than $1.7 billion in child support from fathers meant to go to their kids was instead diverted into government coffers, as part of TANF’s design.)”

At the end of January, National Public Radio‘s Cory Turner reported on data from the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy, which regularly tracks child poverty.  Turner summarized the Center’s conclusions about the significance of last year’s temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit: “What happened when families earning less than $35,000 a year suddenly had extra money in their bank accounts each month? They used it to buy food, clothing and school supplies, pay their utility bills and cover the rent… Less often, families spent the benefit on vehicle (19% of families), child care (16%) or to pay down old debts (17%)… The monthly payments slashed food insufficiency by a quarter… There’s no evidence the money drove caregivers to quit working… In fact, in interviews parents and caregivers commonly say this benefit helped cover the costs that made working easier by paying for child care or transportation.”

A week ago, the Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein presented stunning new, mid-February data from the Columbia Center on Poverty and Social Policy, data which describes what has happened since mid-December, when Congress ended the expanded monthly Child Tax Credit payments provided temporarily under the American Rescue Plan: “The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University said that the child poverty rate rose from 12 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent last month, an approximately 41 percent increase. The study found that an additional 3.7 million children are now in poverty relative to the end of December, with Black and Latino children seeing the biggest percentage point increases… Most dramatic for lowering child poverty was the expanded Child Tax Credit, which was made both more generous and extended to nonworking and poor parents who had traditionally been excluded from receiving benefits.”

ECOT Scandal Simmers Along as Ohio Election Issue this November

The surprise really ought to be that the 17-year, billion dollar ripoff of tax dollars by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) has remained among high profile election issues in this 2018 election season.  After all, when USA Today profiled 28 American cities which have not yet recovered from the 2008 Recession, 9 of them were in Ohio: Warren, Youngstown, Mansfield, Marion, Lorain, Middletown, Sandusky, Akron and Dayton. Besides the economy, the opioid crisis is devastating parts of the state and healthcare more generally is an issue.

But the ECOT scandal hasn’t died as an issue on voters’ minds. Partly this is due to clever work by public education advocates and Democrats. When ECOT’s property was auctioned off, an anonymous purchaser paid $152 in taxes and fees to buy the costume of ECOT’s mascot, Eddy the Eagle. You can watch Eddy on twitter, @EddyEagleECOT, traveling to political events across the state carrying his “Ask Me About Mike DeWine” sign.  DeWine, running as Ohio’s Republican candidate for governor, has been Ohio’s attorney general since 2010 but only filed a lawsuit to recover tax dollars lost to ECOT last winter as the school was being shut down.

Because of the way Ohio distributes state aid and the way its charter school law works, over its 17-year life, ECOT ate up local school operating levy dollars in addition to state aid. A tech-savvy opponent of Ohio’s entrenched Republican majority has now set up https://www.kidsnotcorruption.com/ , an interactive website which describes ECOT: ECOT THE SCANDAL: Wondering just how bad is the ECOT scandal? Well, you should be angry because ECOT is the biggest taxpayer ripoff in Ohio history and Republicans are responsible. Sadly, it’s our kids who were hurt.” At this website it is possible to track how much each Ohio school district has lost to ECOT over the years: for example, from Cleveland’s schools, $ 39,405,981; from Columbus’ schools, $591,000,000; from Cincinnati’s schools, $ 14,648,988.

Several local school districts have now initiated legal action on their own against ECOT to recover lost funds, and three other school districts so far have filed in court to argue that they do not want Attorney General Mike DeWine, who earlier this year filed to recover funds from ECOT, representing them. The Dayton Daily NewsJosh Sweigart reports: “Springfield City Schools is joining Dayton Public Schools and the Logan-Hocking School District in arguing in court that they don’t want the state representing them in getting money from ECOT. The school districts argue that Attorney General Mike DeWine—the Republican candidate for governor—is soft on charter schools and has received campaign donations from ECOT founder Bill Lager… DPS and Springfield are both working with the Cleveland-based law firm Cohen, Rosenthal and Kramer. The firm is working on a contingency fee, meaning it gets paid only if the districts succeed… (T)he districts are skeptical that DeWine would be as aggressive as their attorney.”

William Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, notes, in his October 11, Daily E-Mail, that Attorney General Mike DeWine has filed a memorandum opposing the intervention of local school districts in this case on their own because their interest is “substantively remote from the claims” in the Attorney General’s lawsuit.  Phillis notes that William Lager, ECOT’s founder and operator has made “essentially the same arguments” to oppose the intervention by specific school districts on their own behalf.  Phillis comments: “It is curious that both the Plaintiff and Defendant in this case are on the same page. That accord might validate the importance of intervention by the districts.  If they agree on this matter, maybe they will agree on more substantial issues.”

On October 8, the Cleveland Plain Dealer endorsed Cleveland attorney, Steve Dettelbach for attorney general in the fall election over his opponent Dave Yost, the current Republican state auditor.  Yost was elected to that post in November, 2010.  He has been accused of moving too slowly against ECOT, and the Plain Dealer‘s endorsement reflects this concern: “There is a tiebreaker in this decision however, and it comes in the form of the long-running ECOT… scandal that has hung like a millstone around the neck of a number of Republicans on the Ohio ballot this year who took large campaign contributions from those connected to the now-shuttered online school.  That includes Yost, who announced he’s given more than $29,000 in ECOT-related contributions to charity but denies the campaign donations impacted his actions… But the fact remains that the whistleblower’s warning came in 2014 and Yost’s office did not start investigating with gusto until 2016.”

Meanwhile, on October 10, Ohio’s U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D)—running for re-election in November, joined the ranking member of the Senate’s education committee, Patty Murray (D-WA) to request that the federal Government Accountability Office investigate the operation of online charter schools across the United States. In his re-election bid, Brown already leads his Republican opponent in November by an enormous margin, and perhaps Brown’s distant, Washington, D.C. request for an investigation of e-charter schools will barely ripple across Ohio.  But the request puts Brown, Ohio’s only statewide elected Democrat, on record as someone aware of the 17-year online charter school scandal in his home state, where Republicans have controlled the statehouse and all elected state offices since 2011.

In their letter requesting an investigation by the GAO, Senators Murray and Brown explain: “Research on virtual charter schools shows that students attending such schools perform much worse than their peers receiving in-person instruction in traditional, brick-and-mortar public schools…  Despite these negative outcomes, most states distribute funding to virtual charter schools as they would to brick-and-mortar schools.  And yet, there is limited information on how operators allocate those public dollars to educate students and manage company operations. This is especially problematic as the majority of virtual charter schools are either explicitly operated by or connected to for-profit companies that have perverse incentives to minimize the cost of instruction and student supports in order to boost their bottom line. Accountability models, funding formulas, and attendance policies were created for brick-and-mortar schools, and yet, state funding and accountability policies have not kept pace with the growth of virtual charter schools.  States and districts have yet to identify models that will effectively measure student participation and attendance rates in online schools.  As a result, it is difficult to determine how many students these schools are serving and how much funding they should receive.  For example, in Ohio, (the) Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) concealed attendance numbers as well as student participation and graduation rates for years before the state and local regulators acted.”

Senate Hearing on Betsy DeVos Delayed as Ethical Questions and Concerns about Ideology Persist

The confirmation hearing by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education has been delayed until next Tuesday, January 17 at 5:00 PM.  That hearing had been scheduled to begin this morning, but it was delayed after Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the committee, demanded the postponement in hopes that the Office of Government Ethics can complete its review of the finances of Betsy DeVos, a billionaire Michigan-based philanthropist.

As the Congress and the press explore the complicated financial records of Betsy DeVos and her husband, it is becoming clear that the delay will make it possible not only for the Senators who are responsible for considering DeVos’s nomination but also for the public to learn more about the person Trump has nominated to oversee the nation’s public schools.

Several Senate Democrats including Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown are using the postponement to renew their demand that, before her hearing, Betsy DeVos pay fines accruing from 2008 to the Ohio Elections Commission.  Her All Children Matter PAC, a group that has pretty much shut down, still owes the Ohio Elections Commission $5.3 million in unpaid fines imposed by the Commission when All Children Matter’s national PAC illegally laundered contributions from Ohioans that exceeded Ohio’s legal limits back through its Ohio affiliate to Ohio politicians.

Yesterday the editorial board of the NY Times raised serious ethical concerns: “As the Senate races forward with confirmation hearings this week, the spottiest disclosures have come from wealthy private-sector nominees with no governing experience and many potential conflicts. In other words, the people most in need of a complete ethics review. Exhibit A is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire and education lobbyist… Ms. DeVos’s finances are a tangle that could take weeks to investigate… People who have seen her financial disclosures so far say that Ms. DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, have investments in some 250 companies registered to a single Grand Rapids, Mich., address…. Already… there are reports that the DeVoses are indirect investors in Social Finance Inc., a private company that refinances student loans.  Private lenders like Social Finance are banned from most of the direct student lending market; their lobbyists have already written to the Trump transition team pitching to change that….”

The editorial continues: “Ms. De Vos also faces a big challenge in explaining the damage she’s done to public education in her home state, Michigan. She has poured money into charter school advocacy, winning legislative changes that have reduced oversight and accountability. About 80 percent of the charter schools in Michigan are operated by for-profit companies, far higher than anywhere else.  She has also argued for shutting down Detroit public schools, with the system turned over to charters or taxpayer money given out as vouchers…. In that city, charter schools often perform no better than traditional schools, and sometimes worse.”

Yesterday’s NY Times editorial followed reporter Noam Scheiber’s blockbuster exploration of not only the DeVos’s lavish and complicated financial and lobbying record but also their ruthless political tactics: “In announcing his intention to nominate Ms. DeVos, Mr. Trump described her as a ‘brilliant and passionate education advocate.’ Even critics characterized her as a dedicated, if misguided, activist for school reform. But that description understates both the breadth of Ms. DeVos’s political interests and the influence she wields as part of her powerful family. More than anyone else who has joined the incoming Trump administration, she represents the combination of wealth, free-market ideology and political hardball associated with a better-known family of billionaires: Charles and David Koch… Like the Kochs, the DeVoses are generous supporters of think tanks that evangelize for unrestrained capitalism, like Michigan’s Acton Institute, and that rail against unions and back privatizing public services, like the Mackinac Center. They have also funded national groups dedicated to cutting back the role of government, including the National Center for Policy Analysis (which has pushed for Social Security privatization and against environmental regulation) and the Institute for Justice (which challenges regulations in court and defends school vouchers.) Both organizations have also received money from the Koch family.”

Scheiber continues: “Indeed, the DeVoses’ education activism, which favors alternatives to traditional public schools, appears to derive from the same free-market views that inform their suspicion of government. And perhaps more than other right-wing billionaires the DeVoses couple their seeding of ideological causes with an aggressive brand of political spending. Half a dozen or more extended family members frequently coordinate contributions to maximize their impact. In the 2016 cycle alone, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the family spent roughly $14 million on political contributions to state and national candidates, parties, PACs and super PACs.”

Scheiber quotes Jeffrey Winters, a Northwestern University political scientist, describing Betsy DeVos: “She is the most emblematic kind of oligarchic figure you can put in a cabinet position. What she and the Kochs have in common is the unbridled use of wealth power to achieve whatever political goals they have.”

Organizations that work on behalf of the public interest are also weighing in. On Monday of this week the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of 200 national organizations, wrote to members of the U.S. Senate to explain the concerns of its member organizations: “All parents… in this country—a majority of whom are of color or are low-income—want the best education, support and dignity for their own children. We stand with them and cannot support a nominee who has demonstrated that she seeks to undermine bedrock American principles of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination and public education itself… We reject the notion that children are well served by the dismantling of a public school system that serves 90 percent of all American students or by the elimination of civil rights protections that require the federal government to intervene when students are discriminated against.”

The Leadership Conference’s letter continues: “While parent frustration with schools failing to meet their child’s needs is real and parents have waited far too long for meaningful action by policy makers, the result of anti-public education agendas such as DeVos’ has often, as in Louisiana, been worse outcomes for vulnerable students. The Michigan example, where DeVos’ impact on education policy and the proliferation of unregulated and for-profit charter schools is considerable, demonstrates clearly that this agenda does not result in the improved outcomes students, parents, and communities deserve.”

The Leadership Conference concludes with a reminder that a primary responsibility of the U.S. Department of Education is through its Office of Civil Rights:  “While she (Betsy DeVos) is entitled to her personal views as a private citizen, government officials are charged with enforcing our laws equally… The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for implementing and enforcing laws protecting students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and disability, and those laws that provide for educational opportunity from early childhood through graduate school. The person responsible for leading that department must absolutely be committed to respecting, valuing and protecting every single student in this country—without regard to LGBTQI status, family income, race, home language, gender, religion, disability, or immigration status.  Our nation’s laws, economy, future and children deserve no less.”

Charter Grants from Arne Duncan Destabilize Under-Resourced Public Districts

There is growing evidence that we have a big problem with public money flowing to poorly regulated charter schools—schools that do a poor job of educating students and that find all sorts of ways to rip off the public and suck in tax dollars that are desperately needed by the public school districts in which they are located. But there is a bigger problem.  In school districts that are not growing demographically—the big cities where charters are expanding—the rapid growth of new charters is destabilizing the public schools.  Research continues to demonstrate that charter schools attract parents who are active choosers and children who do not present really expensive education challenges.  Charters are known to serve fewer English language learners and fewer students whose special education needs are complex—fewer autistic, blind, deaf, and multiply-handicapped children, and fewer homeless children and those who are living below 50 percent of the federal poverty level.  Traditional public school districts are being turned into school districts of last resort as they are expected to serve the children left behind by school choice while money is divided with more and more charter schools.

At the end of September, the U.S. Department of Education awarded over $157 million to seven states, the District of Columbia, and eleven charter school projects across the country for the expansion of charter schools.  The outrageous granting of $71 million to Ohio even as the state was locked in a political battle about establishing even the most minimal oversight of charter schools has been questioned in the press. But what about the other grants?

This week Linda Lutton, the education reporter at WBEZ Chicago, questions the five-year charter grant of $8,412,500 to the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago.  She describes the astute reaction of Jesse Sharkey, Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union: “Our neighborhood schools have a hard time just delivering a basic education program.  But at the same time there’s federal dollars and private dollars mixing together to privatize schools… It’s like we’re going on a privatization bender in our schools.  And we’re gonna wake up in the gutter and discover that we have sold off the asset of our public education system, and our schools are being run by private operators that don’t have our values.”

Michael Masch, the former school finance chief of the School District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offered a very similar analysis recently to the Philadelphia Inquirer.  The reporter describes Masch’s worry about the the consequences for the public school district when charters are quickly expanded: “Masch expressed concern that the boom in charter expansion could reach a point of implosion, as the demand to finance new (charter) school buildings is derived mainly by the transfer of students out of traditional district schools. ‘There are no new students coming into the Philadelphia school district and yet we’re building all these new schools. At some point, you’re going to have to start closing schools.’ Masch also said that because charters get guaranteed funding based on the number of students they will enroll, their budgets stayed relatively stable while the district made deep cuts in response to a shortage of state education dollars.  As a result, construction of new district school buildings has ground to a halt. ‘Whether it’s a plan or a strategy or an unintended consequence, the reality is that you have brand-new buildings for charters while district schools are falling apart.  You’re starving one system to fund another.’”

Precisely how does the expansion of charters threaten the public schools in cities where charter networks are rapidly growing?  Lutton describes Chicago, where a district phase-out process leads to the closure of public schools: “Several Chicago high schools this year have freshman classes of just 20, 25, or 30 kids—that’s the entire freshman class.  There are more than two dozen district-run high schools—including neighborhood high schools Fenger, Harper, Hirsch, Manley, Richards, Robeson, and Tilden—with fewer than 400 students total.  A half dozen high schools have fewer than 200 students.  The under-enrollment problems have ballooned as the city has continued to open new high schools—part of its school improvement efforts—even though high school enrollment has been essentially flat.  Since 2004, the population of high school students has grown less than 2 percent, while the number of high schools has grown 58 percent—and that’s not including dozens of alternative schools the city has added.”

Community members and parents in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood mounted a 103 day hunger strike late this summer to preserve a neighborhood public high school at Dyett, a school that would be open to any student in the neighborhood.  After Noble Network Charters received the recent grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Patrick Brosnan, executive director in Chicago’s Brighten Park Neighborhood Council discussed with Lutton what he believes is happening in Chicago’s neighborhoods when charter networks expand: “Brosnan’s group has opposed the new Noble campus proposed for 47th and California for fear it will mean fewer students and thus less funding at nearby Kelly High School, which has seen its population cut by one-third and its budget slashed by $4 million in recent years, as five new schools have opened nearby. ‘It’s basically up for grabs.  They get to make these decisions and make these plans, and there’s really no public discussion about this… I mean, there would be a tremendous impact on existing schools.'”

Michael Milkie, the founder of Noble Network of Charters, has a very different point of view: “This grant can really help us start on that next phase… 20, 30, 40 high schools…. I foresee a day where—I hope—where a majority of the students are educated in either Noble campuses or campuses like that at the high school level.”

What’s going on here?  Over a year ago, Robin Lake, the Director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, creator of the “portfolio school reform model”—that actively supports school choice and whose strategy projects delivering a good choice of school for every child in all neighborhoods and encouraging city school districts to launch charter schools and expand school choice—went to Detroit to see how all this is working.  Last winter, Lake published a scathing analysis in Education Next:  “Whose job is it to fix the problems facing parents in Detroit?  Our interviews with leaders in the city suggest that no one knows the answer.  It is not the state, which defers oversight to local education agencies and charter authorizers.  It is not DPS (Detroit Public Schools), which views charters as a threat to its survival.  It is not charter school authorizers, who are only responsible for ensuring that the schools they sponsor comply with the state’s charter-school law.  It is not the mayor, who thus far sees education as beyond his purview.  And it is not the schools themselves, which only want to fill their seats and serve the children they enroll.  No one in Detroit is responsible for ensuring that all neighborhoods and students have high-quality options or that parents have the information and resources they need to choose a school.  ‘It’s a free-for-all,’ one observer said. ‘We have all these crummy schools around, and nobody can figure out how to get quality back under control….’”

Just perhaps, depending on how the politics play out, there is hope for some containment in Chicago.  Lutton reports: “Chicago’s Board of Education will still have to approve the eight new schools Noble wants to open.  And the hurdles to that have never been higher.  The district is in a financial crisis.  Forty-two aldermen have called for a freeze on charter schools… But the network has the mayor and the governor on its side, along with tens of millions of dollars in projected philanthropic donations.”

One would wish that the U.S. Department of Education, which is making these multi-million dollar grants for charter school expansion, would do something about regulating the schools being launched with federal money.  Last spring the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan demanding a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools until the federal government establishes some regulation.  The Alliance noted a 2012 report from the Department’s own Office of Inspector General that documented the need for far more federal oversight.

During the Senate debate in July on the reauthorization of the federal education law, No Child Left Behind, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown introduced an amendment to provide some oversight of federal investment in the expansion of at least the for-profit charter schools.  Brown declared: “There’s no sector that misspends tax dollars more than these for-profit charter schools.”  “I’m curious that the people that complain about waste, fraud and abuse in government are now standing up to defend these for-profit charters.”