Action Now mother Marsha Godard has been in the news lately speaking about her experience with having a son in a charter school that fines parents for students’ “misbehavior.” She has had to pay close to $2,000 in fines and fees to keep her son in class at Chicago Bulls College Prep. The school is essentially making money off of charging kids for petty offenses like carrying a permanent marker, not tucking in a shirt or chewing gum.
Marsha is not alone in her concerns. Dropping him off for detention one recent Friday, she saw hundreds of kids in line. “Each child represents money,” she said. “I was just floored when I saw that.”
Chicago Bulls College Prep is a member of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which operates a dozen schools serving 7,900 students across the city. Last year, a civil rights group complained after learning that Noble had collected nearly $200,000 in the previous year by fining students. Noble claims that 89 percent of its students are low-income, which makes the fines even more egregious. Noble charters have also received millions of dollars in taxpayer money that is supposed to go to public schools. According to the CPS 2013 budget, Chicago Bulls College Prep will receive $9 million next year, up more than 30 percent from $6.9 million this year.
This policy by Noble charter schools holds children to a ridiculous standard that have no basis in reality or student behavior. The zero-tolerance disciplinary system of Noble schools criminalizes minor infractions and creates a culture that perpetuates and profits from the stereotype of minority students being “badly behaved.” It also reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline. Noble’s policy is another excuse to siphon more money from low-income parents and use schools as a business opportunity instead of a positive learning environment. Godard’s son was required to take a summer behavioral session that cost $1,400 in order to return this year.
Diane Ravitch Blog, “Noble Charters Make Money on Student Fines”