Tandem Insufferability|Yass Spring|What Happens When School Districts Have Buildings to Burn

Good day, CharterFolk

A couple weeks ago, I started off a piece warning CharterFolk that I can be positively insufferable in terms of my fixation on matters related to charter schools generally and to charter school advocacy in particular, such as my obsession with the need to build C3/C4 tandems in order to improve our advocacy strength.

This weekend, we put up the Christmas tree. Over the years, we must have accumulated about a million ornaments.

My favorite?

Like I say.


Yass Spring In Step

Meanwhile, there’s a nice buzz this year about the Yass Prize semi-finalists.

Later this week, the finalists will be announced. Of the 33 semi-finalists, six are charter schools. And of those, most we have covered at least obliquely, if not directly, here at CharterFolk.

From College Achieve in New Jersey …

… we had the organization’s Board Chair offer a Contributor Column this summer …

… describing the astounding academic results the organization generated through the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Gem Innovation Schools in Idaho …

… featured prominently in the study that Terry Ryan brought to our attention in his Contributor Column from January.

In a series of posts last spring, I didn’t specifically talk about West Virginia Academy

… the state’s first charter school, but I did celebrate the fact that West Virginia got its authorizing right when it passed its charter school law, poising the state to make WVA its first authorized school.

And we dedicated a portion of multiple posts last year to cover how Yass Semi-Finalist Odyssey Charter School

… and other high performing charter schools in Wilmington, Delaware undertook aggressive growth efforts that provoked a moratorium proposal that was ultimately overcome by the Delaware Charter School Network and its members.

That leaves Detroit Achievement Academy

… and Comp Sci High

… yet to be profiled within the CharterFolk orbit.

Detroit Achievement we take care of today. (See below.)

Comp Sci we’ll get to in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, to Jeanne Allen …

… and the whole team at the Yass Foundation, many thanks for having created a new prize that is putting additional spring in the step of CharterFolk and ed reformers nationwide.

What Happens When School Districts Have Buildings to Burn

This past week, this story at the Journal certainly leaped out.

Apparently, luxury brands would rather burn their extra inventory than let “the wrong” people get their products at lower prices.

It’s leading to the EU actually trying to ban companies’ burning of excess inventory.

Meanwhile, school districts across the country are assuming their own luxury brand status, having more excess facilities inventory than they know what to do with.

Apparently some people think California has enough empty school buildings to fix the state’s entire housing crisis.

And that doesn’t even count the $20 billion more they got last year to keep right on building.

It creates a conundrum for school districts very much like the one confronted by Louis Vuitton.

How to get rid of all the excess inventory?

And how to do it in such a way that the “wrong people” don’t get their hands on the excess supply?

You know ….


And look, I’m not suggesting that school districts are literally torching their own school buildings just to avoid having to let charter schools use them …

… but figuratively …

… don’t you think the number of abandoned school buildings that have caught on fire in just the past few weeks

… seems eerily emblematic?

School districts have buildings to burn.

In Oklahoma City, charter schools have long wanted access to the district’s excess facilities. Now four more are seeking to open.

Concurrent with the school board’s consideration of the new charters, an abandoned school building went up in smoke on one side of town …

… while on the other, the school district is in negotiation to sell an unused campus to the city to make a park where the school building will be demolished.

So, no, the building won’t go up in flames, but it will still be razed to the ground.

In Newark, the school district is actually trying to get a court to nullify the sale of a district facility to a charter school that happened eight years ago.

In San Antonio, the school district is going forward with plans to vacate about 20 campuses.

They included a list of proposed uses for the soon-to-be-empty facilities.

Needless to say, sharing with charter schools didn’t make the list.

It’s the kind of circumstance that leads many policy makers in the United States, like the EU trying to reign in Prada, to attempt to prevent school districts from incinerating their inventories.

It’s incredibly hard work, often involving the need to win the same battle over and over again.

In 2011, Indiana passed a bill containing many provisions designed to ease the growth of charter schools, including giving charters the right to buy districts’ unused school buildings for $1.

School districts have been fighting it ever since.

This fall, over the objection of parents desperate to get better facilities for their kids …

… Indianapolis Public Schools filed a lawsuit claiming themselves exempt from the $1 law, and won.

So now state lawmakers are trying to clarify the law yet again.

Like CharterFolk in Indiana, Yass Prize semi-finalist Detroit Prep (which is affiliated with Detroit Achievement Academy) …

… had to win the same victory over and over again when they prevailed in their famous battle to prevent the Detroit school district from destroying education-building inventory.

Detroit Prep Executive Director and Founder Kyle Smitley …

… learned that an abandoned school building that would be perfect to house the Detroit Prep program had had a deed restriction placed on it by Detroit public schools when the building was sold years before. That restriction limited the future use of the building to make sure that a charter school could never acquire it. Working in partnership with the Mackinac Center and the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, Kyle and the team at Detroit Prep got the Michigan legislature and governor to pass “The Educational Instruction Access Act,” which deemed it illegal for school districts to create such deed restrictions.

But even after that, the district continued its fight, clinging to a technicality …

… forcing the legislature to act yet again.

Ultimately, a school building that had fallen into a state of utter disrepair …

… was not erased from the landscape as the district had wished. But was breathed back to life.

… such that the building now houses a program that is loved by local students and families and is being recognized nationally through the Yass Prize this week.

This is what happens when charter schools are provided access to district buildings.

Rather than vital community assets going up in smoke.

Great options for kids and families result.

Sadly, in situations like this across the country, school districts emulate purveyors of luxury goods.

Not offering stewardship over public assets such that the best educational options are allowed to flourish in local communities.

But instead using their position of ownership of school buildings to prevent people they considerable undesirable – CharterFolk – from creating the better programs students and families desire.

Allowing private benefit to accrue.

To the school district itself.



Which is yet another reason why I say that many public schools in our country have turned out to be, sadly, just not that public.

And our role is to make sure that public education becomes greatly more public.

By continuing to grow the number of great charter schools in the country, like the ones we see celebrated by the Yass Prize this week.

And by building our advocacy strength.

But facilities advocacy challenges can be particularly daunting.

Because, unlike many other advocacy conundrums where all charter schools have a stake in the issue at the same moment, facilities advocacy is often different.

Charter schools exist in many different facilities circumstances, and so it can be a greater challenge to bring the collective weight of all CharterFolk to bear.

And as we all know, the future of charter school advocacy involves not only being able to win battles.

But being able to win them over and over.

How we develop that ability is the topic I take on next here at CharterFolk.

The answer, it won’t surprise you, involves, yes, a heck of a lot of …

… tandems.

But not just in terms of political infrastructure.

But also in terms of joint effort.

Everyone pedaling on a vehicle no one person or entity controls.

Because the truth is that our entire movement is a tandem.

None of us can get there alone.

We are all, every CharterFolk under the sun, tandem to one another.

How we make it as far and as fast as we can together is the topic I’ve been promising you all for a couple weeks now.

And, I swear, it’s what I turn my attention to next.

Hope to see you here.