Charter networks win Race to the Top-District

Charter school networks are now official “districts,” at least by the rules of the Department of Education’s Race to the Top-District competition, which just announced that 16 applicants had each won a share of nearly $400 million  in the latest sweepstakes.

A news release issued by the department quoted Secretary Arne Duncan as saying:

Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these winners can empower their school leaders to pursue innovative ideas where they have the greatest impact: in the classroom.

Among the winners (a complete list is below) are these charter networks:

KIPP DC, Washington, D.C.

* Harmony Science Academy (Harmony Public Schools), Texas, consortium leader
(consortium members: Harmony School of Excellence, Harmony School of Science-Houston, Harmony Science Academy-Austin, Harmony Science Academy-Brownsville, Harmony Science Academy-El Paso, Harmony Science Academy-Fort Worth, Harmony Science Academy-Lubbock, Harmony Science Academy-San Antonio, Harmony Science Academy-Waco)

* IDEA Public Schools, Texas

Interestingly, the Harmony schools have been linked to the Gulen network of charter schools, according to this PBS piece, which is actually a conversation with some academics about the movement inspired by influential Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen. Some 135 charter schools in 25 states are believed to be run by followers of the reclusive Gulen, including the Harmony schools. (You can read more about Gulen here.)

The story quotes correspondent Lucky Severson and University of Houston Sociology Professor Helen Ebaugh, who authored a book called “The Gulen Movement,” as saying:

SEVERSON:  In Texas there are 33 nationally recognized public charter schools with over 16,000 students grades K through 12. They’re called Harmony schools, and the Turkish superintendent insists they are strictly secular and in no way connected to Gülen. Professor Ebaugh says there’s a reason for this kind of sensitivity.

 

EBAUGH: I think a lot of that is related to the Islamophobia that exists in this country. I think there is a lot of fear that Islam is trying to take hold of this country and countries around the world — that it’s trying to spread itself.

 

The full list of winters:

Carson City School District, Nevada

  • Charleston County School District, South Carolina

  • Galt Joint Union School District, California

  • * Green River Regional Educational Cooperative, Kentucky, consortium leader
    (consortium members: Adair County Schools, Campbellsville Independent Schools, Carroll County Schools, Caverna Independent Schools, Cloverport Independent Schools, Daviess County Schools, Green County Schools, Hart County Schools, Henry County Schools, Logan County Schools, Metcalfe County Schools, Monroe County Schools, Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, Owen County Schools, Owensboro Independent Schools, Russell County Schools, Shelby County Schools, Simpson County Schools, Spencer County Schools, Taylor County Schools, Trimble County Schools, Union County Schools, West Point Independent Schools)

  • Guilford County Schools, North Carolina

  • * Harmony Science Academy (Harmony Public Schools), Texas, consortium leader
    (consortium members: Harmony School of Excellence, Harmony School of Science-Houston, Harmony Science Academy-Austin, Harmony Science Academy-Brownsville, Harmony Science Academy-El Paso, Harmony Science Academy-Fort Worth, Harmony Science Academy-Lubbock, Harmony Science Academy-San Antonio, Harmony Science Academy-Waco)

  • IDEA Public Schools, Texas

  • Iredell-Statesville Schools, North Carolina

  • KIPP DC, Washington, D.C.

  • Lindsay Unified School District, California

  • Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, Indiana

  • Middletown City School District, New York

  • New Haven Unified School District, California

  • * Puget Sound Educational Service District, Washington, consortium leader
    (consortium members: Auburn School District, Federal Way Public Schools, Highline Public Schools, Kent School District, Renton School District, Seattle Public Schools, Tukwila School District)

  • School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida

  • St. Vrain Valley Schools, Colorado

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | December 11, 2012