Class Warfare Blog

November 19, 2013

The Charter School Con

The idea of charter schools was once supported by liberals. They thought that creating a few laboratory schools, freed from the regulations governing ordinary schools, might be able to experiment and discover valid new ways to teach our public school children.

At the same time as the idea of “charters” was being floated, there was still widespread disenchantment within the very well-to-do regarding the fact that they still had to pay taxes to pay for the public schools when they were sending their children to private schools. They were paying double, they said, and it just wasn’t fair. There were any number of efforts to turn private school tuition into tax credits but all of these failed.

So the well-to-do came up with a new strategy. They would create private schools and get the government to pay for them, instead of having to pay for them out of pocket. This, then, became the new model for a charter school and charter schools became the darlings of conservatives.

Think about it. There are private schools in abundance; many of the elementary schools called “Something Something Day School” or “Something Something Country Day School” to harken back to a distinction between private schools at which students took up residence and schools to which students commuted (“day schools”). These schools would have had to purchase land, built or bought buildings and maintained them, and had to hire staff and train them, and in many cases would have had to make a profit. The tuition at such schools ranged from a few thousand dollars a year up to much more. The Chicago Day School was sited right next to the building I first lived in when I moved here and they charge something like $17,000 for a year of kindergarten up to $23,000 for a year of middle school.

What the rich wanted was that kind of education for their children but without having to pay for it and those pesky regulations that said that schools had to enroll disabled students, mentally challenged students, emotionally disturbed students, and black and brown students without prejudice were in the way. So, they needed freedom from the state regulations covering such things and union contracts covering salaries and fringe benefits, so the vehicle of charter schools was perfect for the task and so it got high jacked. From a noble experiment to a sleazy grab for money in one fell swoop. And all it took was some propaganda (“Charter schools are better than traditional public schools,” they cried.) and some sympathetic lawmakers (meaning “well bribed”) and voila, it was so.

From around the country, the reports are flowing in. Not only do charter schools not perform better than traditional public schools, many of them perform quite a bit worse (as admitted by an Ohio-based conservative think tank, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, regarding the charter schools in Ohio). And, then we find out that many of the students foisted upon the public schools by those pesky and abhorrent regulation (you know, the disabled students, mentally challenged students, emotionally disturbed students, and black and brown students) aren’t present in the kinds of numbers they are in the traditional schools. Since many of these students tend to perform worse on standardized tests, this seems to be the strategy to demonstrate that “charter schools are better” (you know, only send the “A Team” to the testing room strategy) but even that is not working. But in any case resegregating the schools is a good thing, no?

You would think that these charter school administrators, earning very lavish salaries indeed, could come up with a better strategy to bolster their propaganda, so maybe it is just a generally distaste for students of that ilk that they tend to be excluded.

I do not want to paint all charter schools with a broad brush and say that they are all like this, but a great many are, especially those created in the latest wave. They have been created by a ideologically-driven concerted effort to get the public coffers to pay for private schools for the children of their well-to-do sponsors.

And the effort has failed, which is why the expansion of charter schools is continuing and even accelerating. What? You see, facts aren’t really important, and the kids, well, they’ll end up going to good colleges any way; Mummy and Daddy will see to that. And those data are in, too. The rich have a hugely better track record in education than do the middle class or the poor. Being poor is a handicap to getting a good education greater than any other. More so now that charter schools have been high jacked to serve the interests of the well-to-do, either through making profits from the public sector money used to pay for these schools, or in teachers union-busting (very few charters have unionized teachers and those union members are all Democrats any way), or through getting someone else to pay for a private school-like education for their kids.

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5 Comments »

  1. I found this article the other day. It’s a few years old, but interesting nonetheless:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?_r=0

    Like

    Comment by john zande — November 19, 2013 @ 10:45 am | Reply

    • I was blocked from reading the full article but I got the gist. Same approach as Finland. Education is a social activity and social media and its ilk do not enhance the effort. They do their work with the simplest of tools. A basic lesson from a kindred spirit, but as Americans we don’ take no stinkin’ advice from no Euro Socialists. Ask Sarah Palin!

      PS I am close to finishing Caeser’s Messiah and the arguments are too deep to summarize easily. I originally threw up any number of objections and the author trumped every one of them. Then he pointed out that the first Pope was a Flavian! Does Brazil have an Amazon.com through which I could send you a gift copy?

      PS We’ve moved (again)! Just change the Apt # from 28C to 17A (110 feet down and about 30 feet east). Effective Date: October 1, 2013

      *Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.* ************** Steve Ruis

      Like

      Comment by stephenpruis — November 19, 2013 @ 11:54 am | Reply

      • We got Amazon earlier this year, but i wouldn’t bother. I’ve used it a few times, $10 book (GREAT!) $90 delivery (D’OH!). I think i’m going to order a kindle this year from Santa.

        Like

        Comment by john zande — November 19, 2013 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

        • The Kindle version of the book is only $6.95 US. There is a free “Kindle App” for the PC that allows you to read Kindle books on a lap- or desktop. (Works great.)

          I got a refurbished “Color Nook” which is a Barnes and Noble’s e-Reader, and for $16 I got a Memory Card that hacks that into a full Android Tablet (which with the Nook App you can still interface with B&N’s bookstore). Unlike the Kindle readers, the Nook allows you to read with white print on a balck or Sepia background, which is great for reading in bed at night) so as to not keep the spouse awake due to the blinding glare from the paperwhite screen. Both models have charger problems the Nook with a lousey cord and the Kindle with a power block that fails, but both are addicting and can pay for themselves as both Kindle and B&N have a huge library of tomes in the public domain that they sell for $0.00 (that’s right, nothing!). Many of these were scanned by machine and not cleaned up by a human and are almost unreadable, but many are quite nice.

          The problem I have with all of these is that one cannot excerpt the books without retyping the portion. There is no cut and paste, no cloud, no nothing but reading. A botch when you quote people as much as I do.

          I really want to find out whether Caeser’s messiah blows your mind as much as it has mine. The consequences of his argument are fascinating. (If you think the evangelicals are immune to hearing that the Pentateuch is fiction, wait til they find out about the entire New testament!)

          PS We’ve moved (again)! Just change the Apt # from 28C to 17A (110 feet down and about 30 feet east). Effective Date: October 1, 2013

          *Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.* ************** Steve Ruis

          Like

          Comment by stephenpruis — November 19, 2013 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

      • Hey, thanks for the thought, though. You’re a good man

        Like

        Comment by john zande — November 19, 2013 @ 12:14 pm | Reply


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