I don't want to confuse Education Commissioner Johnny Key
with facts, but somebody please copy him on this article in today's New York Times:
Key, who's helped the Walton billionaires expand charter school enrollment exponentially in Arkansas (with little to show for it in academic achievement), is offered another lesson in Detroit on top of the miraculous failure of characterization of New Orleans schools.
The article describes a public education fiasco perhaps unrivaled in the U.S.
Yes, the public schools were failing. But rather than fix them:
While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation’s poorest students, enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.
Detroit now has more students in charters than any American city except New Orleans, which turned almost all its schools into charters after Hurricane Katrina. But half the charters perform only as well, or worse, than Detroit’s traditional public schools.
“The point was to raise all schools,” said Scott Romney, a lawyer and board member of New Detroit, a civic group formed after the 1967 race riots here. “Instead, we’ve had a total and complete collapse of education in this city.”
In Walton World — a world in which Key and other beholden politicians live — choice is always better. More charter schools are always better. Faith trumps facts. I urge you again to look at data compiled by a researcher from the University of Arkansas
— indeed from a division supported by Walton money — and see that even the highly touted charter schools in Little Rock don't stand out, particularly when measuring results among those most in need — minority, poor and English language-learners. And still Key wants to save or expand even the poorest performing among them.
A telling indicator for the future is who Johnny Key names to the community advisory board for the Little Rock School District, now under his iron-fisted, pro-charter-expansion control. Wills he will choose the applicants who are a charter school executive, charter school parents and a Republican advocate of the blow-up of the Little Rock School District? Or might he choose several of the applicants with a proven commitment to making a conventional public school district work either as employees or parents? I was struck particularly by the father of two children in one of the district's so-called failing high schools, a school that has lacked continuity of leadership and where parental involvement in a student body predominantly black and poor is all but non-existent. It seems to me that people such as him are more in order for the advisory board than those who fled high-poverty schools they believed failing for options that — surprise — aren't doing any better than the schools they feared so much.