by David Safier
An article in today's NY Times, via the Texas Tribune, discusses the way charter schools, which are funded with taxpayer dollars, hide much of their financial information from the public. The poster child: BASIS, which recently opened a San Antonio branch. BASIS's Texas application is online, but much of the application is blacked out because the charter schools are run by Basis.ed, a private, for profit corporation, and, according to the application, much of the material is "Confidential/Proprietary Information and/or Confidential/Financial Information."
It's an important story about how nonprofit charter schools like BASIS funnel most of their taxpayer dollars to for-profit Education Management Organizations (EMOs), also referred to as Charter Management Organizations (CMOs), where it is hidden from public scrutiny. The publicly traded corporation, K12 Inc., which runs virtual schools including Arizona Virtual Academy, is another prime example, and there are many more.
The story of the redacted BASIS application in Texas started right here. It was first reported by Ann-Eve Pedersen on the monthly cable access show she and I do, Education: The Rest of the Story. In her segment debunking the conservative myth that the business model will improve education, she displayed the BASIS application, which looks like an FBI file where entire pages are blacked out. I used her information to write the post, BASIS Charters' educational trade secrets. Some people in Texas who are concerned about the proliferation of Arizona charters like BASIS and Great Hearts in their state saw the post and the video, relayed the information to Morgan Smith, a Texas Trib reporter, and she used it as part of her article.
A national progressive education network is taking root. I email with people across the country — reporters, parents, activists, even the occasional state legislator — sharing information back and forth. The Network for Public Education (NPE), begun by Diane Ravitch, acts as a clearing house for articles, blog posts and personal stories from around the country; the post I wrote about the redacted BASIS application was reprinted in the NPE News Briefs section. Though the opulently funded conservative "education reform" movement still controls much of the educational message that comes out of the mainstream media, the grassroots progressive education movement is beginning to gain traction.