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At charter school hearings, Ravitch faces off Sen. Craig Johnson, shill of the charter school industry

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New York State Senator Bill Perkins held oversight hearings on charter schools yesterday, and was vehemently criticized by the tabloids for daring to call for more accountability and transparency, despite numerous articles in the press, documenting repeated instances of conflicts of interest and excessive profit-making by the industry.

The Post has published more than eleven (!!!) articles and opeds in the last two days, attacking Perkins, and calling for him to be ousted from office.

I doubt the Post has ever expressed as much hostility against Osama Bin Laden himself.

The Daily News ran an editorial entitled "Lunacy let Loose," accusing the academics and advocates who testified against the potential for unregulated corruption and abuse by charter schools, and parents who told of how their own children had been pushed out of charters as making "unsubstantiated accusations, contradictory claims, canards and exaggerations."

The fact is that Sen. Perkins is not alone, and there is now not a single elected official from Harlem who supports the charter cap being lifted, after having witnessed the bulldozer tactics, lies and ways in which Joel Klein and the NYC Department of Education has allowed charter schools to undermine the district's public schools through the loss of resources, students, and space. (For more on DOE's dishonesty, see this video of NYC Councilmember Inez Dickens of Harlem at a recent hearing on the co-location of the charter school Harlem Success Academy at PS 123. Dickens tells how she had been falsely promised by DOE officials two years ago that PS 123 would be able to regain all its lost classrooms and cluster spaces.)

In fact, Joel Klein could not do more to promote failure at the district schools that he is responsible for running if he tried.

Even more outrageous is how the charter industry and the hedge fund managers who are supporting them insist on legally blocking the ability of the State Comptroller to audit their use of tax-payer funds; a rather inexcusable position, which the tabloids cannot admit or defend. If there is no corruption there, what have they got to hide?

Diane Ravitch was the lead-off witness yesterday; her entire testimony is posted here. Here is an excerpt:

As the number of charters grows, public authorities must ensure that charter operators are responsible. We have seen stories in the press, especially the New York Daily News, about charters that produce astonishing profits for entrepreneurs and investors, while storing children in trailers with meager facilities. This is not right.

Just last month, on March 9, the New York Times described how public schools in Harlem now must market themselves to compete with charter schools for new students. The regular public schools have less than $500 each to create brochures and fliers; the charter firm with which they compete has a marketing budget of $325,000. That's not fair.

We have seen stories about non-profit entrepreneurs who are paid $400,000 a year or more to run charters for 1,000 children. That's more than the Chancellor of the New York City schools is paid, and more than the U.S. Secretary of Education. That's not right. The New York Daily News reports today that charter schools, unlike other public schools, are not subject to public audits or to rules prohibiting nepotism and conflicts of interest by their board members or staff. That's not right.

The Legislature must insist that charters act like public institutions and that they are fiscally transparent and accountable.

For Ravitch's gall in pushing for more oversight, she was bullied and berated by Sen. Craig Johnson, Democrat from Nassau County, who is the charter industry's main supporter in the Legislature, despite the fact that he has not one charter school in his district. Why?

Could it be because he receives $65,000 a year in contributions from the charter school lobby? Nah.

As it happens, Diane Ravitch is the keynote speaker at the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association at its 50th anniversary dinner on June 1.

Knowing Diane as I do, I would guess that Sen. Craig Johnson has not heard the last about his insistence on foisting more unregulated charter schools on New York City, which the parents and school boards in Nassau County would vehemently oppose if they were forcibly inserted into their own communities.

Yet as NY State taxpayers, his constituents should still object to having their hard-earned tax dollars put at risk in this way.