by Max Brantley
To hear Arkansas billionaires tell it, charter schools are THE solution to what ails public education. President Obama and his advisers have bought in and are funneling special federal money to states that promise the most aggressive development of charter schools.
Now comes the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, which has a new report on charter schools. It says one widely cited study overstates the benefits of charter schools in New York, while other studies show mixed results on charters. In short, don't rush to judgment.
The charter advocates may be right. They may not. It's worth remembering the coin has two sides as the Billionaires Club seeks to push through an unlimited number of untested and inefficient charter schools, particularly where they're certain to have a negative impact on diversity in urban school districts.
If you do check the EPI, give a look at a link to thoughts from Diane Ravitch, a former school "reformer" who's now jumped to oppose the Billionaire Boys Club. Example:
There is a problem with calling what is happening in schools “reform.” Some articles extol unproven ideas and lack any fairness or balance. My book cites a lot of research showing that charter schools don’t do any better on the whole than regular public schools. If they do not produce consistently better results, why are we investing billions of scarce public dollars to create many, many more of these (charter) schools? And why ignore their likely impact on regular public schools? Proponents claim that competition improves public schools but that certainly has not happened in Milwaukee, where there are vouchers, charters, and regular public schools, and all three sectors have low performance.
Wouldn't it be nice to hear Ravitch testify, too, when the billionaires seek to blow the lid off charter schools in Arkansas at the coming legislative session?