Terri Michael is a member of the Birmingham city school board.  She works hard to keep a watchful eye on things involving that school system.  She is very concerned about things she has learned about the push for charter schools there.  In the article below, which was published in the blog of Diane Ravitch, the most widely read education blog in the U.S., Michael details something that does not pass the smell test.

“In Alabama we have a Legislature that appears to be perfectly fine creating legislation that targets our black and brown high poverty students in Birmingham.

We have education organizations and foundations that work against the very schools they are contracted to support.

We have a State Superintendent that is condoning the targeting of our students.

We have a real estate executive that in 2015 actively worked, unbeknownst to Birmingham City Schools (BCS), to get our charter school law passed while at the same time holding a contract to sell surplus properties for the school system. This information was just recently exposed. They are still under contract with BCS.  

Now, thanks to an old organization, the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools, renamed New Schools for Alabama, we can add Betsy DeVos to that dogpile. Like the cherry on top of a sundae, Betsy DeVos is the final piece needed to serve up Birmingham City Public Schools to the power-hungry politicians and the gluttonous corporations they work for.

So, what was it exactly that DeVos did to make their charter school dreams come true? She awarded New Schools for Alabama a $25 million-dollar grant to open 15 charter schools, a majority of which no doubt will be in Birmingham.

However, New Schools wasn’t the only one that got a gift, I did too.  What was it? The Federal grant application that New Schools filed in an effort to receive that CSP Grant. It brought together, in one document, the entire cast of characters that’sworking to undermine public education in Birmingham, Alabama.

When I began reading it, I didn’t really know what I was looking for.

But the first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that they had no problem saying they were targeting Birmingham, along with 3 other districts. Now, finally, for all of those in this city who refuse to believe we are targets for privatization, it’s right there in the application in black and white. I guess we can now put that ‘conspiracy theory’ to rest.

Second, I noticed the people and organizations that wrote letters in support of New Schools for Alabama and the grant that would be undermining our public schools; Alabama Sen. Del Marsh (R), U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D), State Superintendent Eric Mackey, the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation, the Daniel Foundation, and A+ Education Partnership, just to mention a few.

Third, and possibly the most disturbing, was the fact that the Executive Director of NSFA, Tyler Barnett, used data gathered from our voucher law, the Alabama Accountability Act, to justify targeting our black and brown students for charter schools.  Here’s what he said:

“Of Alabama’s 76 state-designated failing schools—meaning, the bottom 6% of schools in academic achievement—72 had at least a 90% poverty rate.  And of the 38,420 students in those failing schools, 96% are Black or Hispanic.”

Ninety Six percent are Black or Hispanic!! How in the world can Mr. Barnett, or anyone else for that matter, take this data andthen twist it to blame the schools and/or the students for ‘failing’? Especially knowing the same Sen. Del Marsh that wrote the recommendation letter for this grant was also responsible for bringing us the Accountability Act.  Just as they are targeting our students for charter schools, the Accountability Act targets our black and brown students and labels their schools as failing.

This data is garbage, the only purpose it serves is to strengthen the systemic racism that exists in public education in Alabama. If you are thinking to yourself, ‘it’s the poverty’, it’s not.  Approx. half of our public-school students that live in poverty in Alabama are white.

Finally, the most surprising thing I found was this, in reference to what our charter school law says about acquiring real estate:

“Already, this law has been exercised by a charter applicant in Birmingham City Schools, which sold a historic but underutilized school building in the fall of 2018 so that an emerging charter network could restore the building for school use.”

Wait, what?  I am a board member for BCS, I would like to think that I’d know if we sold a building for charter school use.We did attempt to sell one property last fall, but the sale fell through in February, a month after the NSFA Federal Grant Application was submitted.

If we were to believe that the information in this federal application were true, and why wouldn’t we, the reason I didn’t know the surplus property was going to be a charter school is, more than likely, because of three little words that come after the buyer’s name on our real estate sale agreement, ‘and/or assigns’.What these three words do is allow the person buying the property to assign the sale to a third party.  So, if it says John Smith and/or assigns, then maybe John Smith is buying it, and maybe he’s just making a quick buck for his services and passing the sale on to a third party.  As a BCS school board member, I don’t really KNOW who’s buying our property.

One bit of information I left out; New Schools for Alabama is still legally the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools(ACPS). This coalition’s sole purpose was to get the charter school law passed in Alabama.  Once it did that, the organization went dormant.

Now they have rebranded themselves with a new name, a new board and a new purpose.  Part of their new purpose is to help prospective charter schools buy and/or lease property. (Surprise!!)

In light of this very generous offering from our public-school hating Secretary of Education, I decided it was time to revisit the old board of ACPCS, just to refresh my memory.  

Right away I came across the name of J. Michael Carpenter.  I can tell you, I was more than a little surprised to find out that it was the same J. Michael Carpenter that founded Bloc Global,the real estate company that Birmingham City Schools has had under contract to sell surplus properties since 2011. Could this be how NSFA knew that we sold property to be utilized as a charter school?

So, let me explain this again in very simple terms.  As a Birmingham City Schools Board member I discovered that the real estate company that we have under contract to sell  our surplus property was, in part,  founded by and currently still under the direction of, the very same person that sat on the board of the coalition that is  responsible for helping write our charter school law and lobbying for its passage. Legally that coalition (ACPCS) is the same entity doing business as New Schools for Alabama. NSFA wrote the CSP Grant Application that stated the BCS board sold property in the fall of 2018 to someone for charter school use.

Is your head spinning? Well so is mine. I knew none of this information until recently. I’m very concerned and upset that as an elected member of the BCS board I had to spend days doing research to uncover all of this myself.  

Yet, I know this is how things work in Betsy’s world.  The world of charter schools is one big land grab full of backroom deals and shell games. Now, with this new information and the $25 million dollar grant it appears the final piece of the charter school puzzle is in place in Birmingham.

Land???  Check.”