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New Report Tallies the Hidden Costs of Charter Schools

Also in this week’s column: Omarosa reveals Betsy DeVos’ nom de Trump. Austin Beutner hires Chris Christie’s Newark schools supe. Gary Hart’s “legislative jiu-jitsu.”




Omarosa Manigault Newman photo by Gage Skidmore

“Learning Curves” is a weekly roundup of news items, profiles and dish about the intersection of education and inequality. Send tips, feedback and announcements of upcoming events to, @BillRaden.


Though last year’s 25th anniversary of California’s Charter Schools Act of 1992 came and went with little fanfare, former state Senator Gary Hart, the author of that deeply polarizing law, surfaced at EdSource this week to take a birthday bow. In an interview with John Fensterwald, the retired Democrat grudgingly admitted “some districts face loss of revenue due to charter growth” and suggested that some sort of state mitigation for siphoned-off enrollment might be in order.

But Hart’s most telling admission is the act of “legislative jiu-jitsu” he said it took to squelch deliberation on his radical experiment in privatized education before the full senate: “[We] pulled the bill out of conference committee and passed it quickly off the senate floor with no debate and sent it to [Republican governor Pete] Wilson.” Had the teachers unions been permitted to be heard on the bill, he added, “it likely would not have passed.”

The lost-revenues impact of Hart’s law gets put into powerful dramatic relief in a five-minute documentary (shown above) posted this week by education advocates In The Public Interest. The unequivocally titled “Charter Schools Are Draining California’s Education Funding” canvasses the same three highly chartered and fiscally teetering districts profiled in ITPI’s charter fiscal impact study from May — Oakland Unified, San Diego Unified and San Jose’s East Side Union High School District.

We can now stop wondering whether Donald Trump has a private endearment for Betsy DeVos. According to this week’s bombshell from former Trump White House adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman, he does, and it’s “Ditzy DeVos.” To be fair, it’s an unusually mild pejorative considering the half-baked bigotry attributed to the Secretary of Education in Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, Manigault Newman’s sensational tell-all memoir.

Recounting the Amway billionaire’s reaction to being booed by angry graduates at historically black Bethune-Cookman University, Manigault Newman writes that DeVos afterwards dismissed the protesters, saying, “They don’t have the capacity to understand what we’re trying to accomplish.” “Oh no, Madam Secretary,” Manigault Newman claims to have shot back. “They get it, and they aren’t happy about you or your goals.” Ditzy promptly bumped her from the motorcade.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s line about there being no second acts in American lives clearly doesn’t apply to a pair of veteran ed reform consultants just hired by L.A. Unified schools chief Austin Beutner.

Before joining Team Beutner, ThirdWay Solutions founder Cami Anderson was Newark, New Jersey’s parent-alienating schools superintendent from 2011 to 2015. Her Mark Zuckerberg-funded “One Newark” universal enrollment scheme led to numerous neighborhood school closures, mass firings and multiple complaints of civil rights violations.

And Erin McGoldrick Brewster, a partner at “portfolio district” specialists Kitamba, was singled out in a 2011 investigative piece by USA Today for helping then-Washington, DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee stonewall an investigation into higher-than-typical erasure rates on multiple-choice standardized tests during Rhee’s controversial test score-linked merit pay program.

The consultants, who are part of a new deregulation initiative announced by Beutner last week, will be paid off the LAUSD books, courtesy of a $3 million discretionary fund partly financed by billionaire school privatizer Eli Broad.

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