‘Disciplinary Fees’ Show the Trouble With Charter Schools and Privatization

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, January 7, 2013

Our neighbors at MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry report that Chicago’s Noble Network of Charter Schools is making some cash on the side by charging “disciplinary fees” to unruly students. The parents of one teenager, writes Traci Lee, had to pay close to $2,000 in fines for infractions including “an unkempt appearance and not making eye contact.”

Unreasonable, perhaps, but not unprofitable. Writes Lee: “According to the Chicago Tribune, Noble raked in approximately $200,000 in disciplinary fees  in 2011 and almost $400,000 since the 2008-09 school year.”

That’s small change compared to the nearly $70 million in funding the charter school network is expected to receive this year, but it’s enough to make it worth the effort. Noble Network CEO Michael Milkie defended the schools’ actions last year, telling the Tribune that the fees not only clamped down on violence, but also offset the costs for the school to administer detention.

Indeed, disciplinary fees are a win-win for charter schools: Not only are they reasonably lucrative, but there’s also a great way to enforce social control. If a kids’ unruly behavior puts a significant financial burden on his parents, you can bet those parents will do everything they can to get their son in line. The increased classroom discipline, in turn, reflects well on the charter school, which might then expect more city funding.

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