The Attack on Charter Schools


(Washington Post, 6/2/19) the charter school movement is in trouble. In late December, the editorial board of the Chicago Sun-Times observed that the charter movement in the Windy City was “in hot water and likely to get hotter.” Among more than a dozen aspirants for mayor, “only a handful” expressed any support for charter schools, and the last two standing for the April 2 runoff election both said they wanted to halt charter school expansion. In February, New York City’s elected parent representatives — the Community and Citywide Education Councils — issued a unanimous statement in which they criticized charters for operating “free from public oversight” and for draining “substantial” resources from district schools. A month later, Mayor Bill de Blasio told a parent forum that in the “not-too-distant future” his administration would seek to curtail the marketing efforts of the city’s charters, which currently rely on New York City Department of Education mailing lists.

The teacher’s unions and school boards they elect are working hard to block new charter schools from opening.  Ironically, this is a liberal agenda but the propaganda and distortions of facts is very much in a Trumpian mold.

The biggest example of the Trump effect  is the false distinction between “charter” and “public.” The anti-charter folks falsely claim that charters drain money from “public schools.” That is nonsense.  Charters are defined as public schools and the only money they get from the public coffers is the same or less than that given to other public schools. Often charters are excluded from special programs that are funded within the conventional schools.  If there are fewer kids attending the traditional schools why shouldn’t there be less funding?

The anti-charter movement also shows Trumpian abuse of statistics.  The unions and union-supported politicians claim that the data shows only marginal improvement on performance when charters are compared to “public schools” across the US.  That type of abuse of statistics is called a “false comparison.”   Charters are not one type of school. They are a policy that allows many different experiments. As Barack Obama put it, charter schools are intended to be “incubators of innovation.” Evaluation of each experiment takes time. Some charters will fail, others will succeed.  The successes will lead to new experiments done to attract students who chose to take advantage of what has been learned.

Meanwhile, some of these experiments are working extremely well. Data from Louisiana and Massachusetts, two very different states, show that experiments done using charters do work. The same is true in Chicago .. charters on the Southside are doing very well except for the huge anger provokes by the tradtional schools who claim “their” students are being drained away.

“The vanguard of this unrest is organized teachers, political progressives and public education activists.  (Washington Post)

The argument that nay student belongs to a school system is almost Stalinist.  Until recently that dictum was the law in China where with Mao’s dictum was that  choice of schools should be made according to the state’s needs as determined by the party.  The Washington Post article says that “schools can attract students for reasons other than superior quality, and the obsession with securing per-pupil funding has in many cases been a distraction from the work of educating students. As a senior official for the pro-charter Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce recently observed: “We’ve turned education into a commodity — if that kid walks across the street, you’re chasing after him for the money attached to his seat. That’s ridiculous if you think about the long term.”  Why is that ridiculous?  Moreover, is it American to dictate that poor kids need to go to state schools run by the unions while better of kids get to choose their schools?

Back here in Seattle, at the risk of sounding Trumpian myself, the only way I can describe the Seattle Public Schools with the adjective “the failed” Seattle Public Schools. The local critics should treat the SPS as an experiment too!  The unions fear the charters because they undermine union control of school districts by returning power to the parents and the teachers in individual schools. Again, at the risk of being called Republican, the free market, if charters are fone well, will allow popular schools to continue to expand and grow because parents want them for their children.  This is especially true for low-income, minority families unable to afford the PTA financed local public schools so typical of a segregated district like Seattle.

(Washignton Post, 6/2/19) ” many charters have developed innovative practices: reimagining the school schedule, using small group instruction, creating stronger mentoring relationships between teachers and students. Additionally, millions of parents have been empowered to choose new schools for their children. Parents generally favor strong neighborhood schools, but in districts with outdated student assignment policies, low levels of equity or demonstrated inadequacy, many parents have seen school choice as a blessing. Some charter networks, like KIPP, have had success expanding across multiple locations.”

Tom Vander Ark of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2003, said that  charter schools offered young people “hope for the future.”

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  1. Mark Adams #

    The Unite States and the fifty states have always had private schools. There have been public schools, and generally most states like Washington State have a constitution that says the state will do a public school, and the tax money it collects can only support public school. It cannot go to any private school whether that school is set up to exclude blacks or whites. Can be set up ty a religion such as the Catholic Church, Hebrew school, ect. My tax money should not be going to support any school connected to any religion. Parents are free to send their kids there, and I expect them to pay the local and state taxes as if their child were going to public school. Yes for the privilege of sending their child to a private school they get to pay twice. Good for them.
    There are things many private schools do that public schools can do, but generally will not because of the friction with parents and the students. School uniforms, pledge of allegiance, addressing the teacher as Mr or Mrs. Or Miss. There may not be more cameras in public schools than private ones, but they can go into the private one much much easily.

    Private schools are less answerable to the parents and to the state. The local Baptist school has to teach evolution, but don’t be surprised when the text book shows living human being with dinosaurs, or the ark getting equal billing with Darwin. A lot more emphasis on Evolution being a theory and not fact even though there have been instances of evolution happening since Darwin came out with his theory. The human appendix is becoming smaller with passing generations by the way, still why would god put such an imperfect thing in his most perfect treasure: man?

    There is a lot more incentive in private schools to paper over misconduct. The teacher or janitor may get fired or let go, but it will not come out they raped a student, and will continue their career in the Catholic church for instance. Public schools are not perfect, but they are expected to do diligence when hiring and firing.

    The fact segregation brought private schools out of the doldrums remains one reason we should be uncomfortable with charter schools. Nothing much prevents the local John Birchers or even KKK to set up a charter school. And if it is legal they should have the same access to the public money as any other private charter school.

  2. theaveeditor #

    Mark, I almost deleted this comment. It has nothing to do with the post. The post is NOT about private schools.

  3. theaveeditor #

    Charters are not private. This is irrlevant.