Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown has been a long-time supporter of the charters-for-profit movement. Her new “job” is to help convince LA residents to abandon their public schools where community relationships are built, and instead to shift students to schools less diverse and- as evidence has established for at least two decades- less willing to educate students of greatest need.
If they are the panacea promoted to be, why do stories involving abuse by charter school operators continue to surface nationwide? It’s simple; the original intent of charter schools as laboratories of educational innovation has been subverted by wealthy interests that manipulate the law for profit at the expense of the taxpayer.
For many years those for-profit charter proponents like Brown have been sharpening their knives over public schools, teachers and the unions that represent them. These powerful and wealthy forces include foundations funded by billionaires and other anti-union ideologues who see an opportunity for easy money at the expense of an old foe. The lack of oversight and ability to pay sub-standard wages makes for an irresistible opportunity for abuse– only our children are the victims.
In San Diego County, the case of former Superintendent Steve Van Zant is a textbook example of that abuse. As he took a several hundred thousand dollar salary from San Diego Mountain Empire District, he discovered a loophole in California ‘s charter law that allows districts to “sponsor” charter schools outside its own district boundaries, and receive a percentage of the revenue. Picking the pockets of surrounding districts by pulling their public school students into the for-profit school- a school often opened within that district’s own school boundaries! His wife Ingrid Van Zant is also on hand as an interior design expert, to walk districts through finding a location, how and where lease agreements could be procured, etc. So respected was Van Zant’s reputation in navigating this shadowy system that one San Diego superintendent dubbed him a “Charter School God”. There is no free lunch, however, and adjacent districts grew wise to this abuse. Finally, they sued and exposed the duplicity. Van Zant, now facing charges for running the operation from his school former superintendent’s office, is on indefinite leave from the Bay Area district to which he moved from the southland.
For Campbell Brown, she joins this effort financed by wealthy interests who see LA public schools as potential profit centers. Pointing to the recent acquisition of a popular education website, LA School Report, that her opponents claim will give the charter cause greater voice.
California is already sending millions and millions of its tax dollars to Virginia annually, where executives are paid six figure salaries to run charters schools three thousand miles away.
It remains an open question:
How do students benefit from executives on the East Coast being paid six figure salaries from tax dollars meant for California’s children?