The problem with charter schools. First, they aren't public schools | Arkansas Blog

The problem with charter schools. First, they aren't public schools


A statement worth reading from the Network for Public Education on public schools and charter schools, which are NOT public schools in any meaningful sense of the word except for receiving public tax dollars.

It's a ringing declaration of support for public schools, open to all, as a pillar of democracy. Charter schools?

By definition, a charter school is not a public school. Charter schools are formed when a private organization contracts with a government authorizer to open and run a school. Charters are managed by private boards, often with no connection to the community they serve. The boards of many leading charter chains are populated by billionaires who often live far away from the schools they govern.

Through lotteries, recruitment and restrictive entrance policies, charters do not serve all children. The public cannot review income and expenditures in detail. Many are for profit entities or non-profits that farm out management to for-profit corporations that operate behind a wall of secrecy. This results in scandal, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer funds. The news is replete with stories of self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and theft occurring in charter schools [1].

We have learned during the 25 years in which charters have been in existence that the overall academic performance of students in charter schools is no better, and often worse, than the performance of students in public schools. And yet charter schools are seen as the remedy when public schools are closed based on unfair letter-based grading schemes.

See Arkansas. Last week, the state Board of Education kept the taxpayer spigot open to a financial problem-plagued and academically deficient charter school, Covenant Keepers, even as it insists on retaining state control of the Little Rock School District, not a single one of whose 48 schools could be called worse in performance that Covenant Keepers. And none of the Little Rock schools have a leader making $135,000 a year like the director of the 160-student Covenant Keepers, recently bailed out of financial difficulties by a cash infusion from the Walton Family Foundation to a private management outfit whose books are not open to public inspection.

The Little Rock District, in the meanwhile, has even been forced to close a succeeding public school that served a heavily minority population because of budget stress. No Walton bailout for Wilson Elementary or Franklin Elementary.

The network statement includes a checklist of ways that the playing field could be leveled for public schools and charter schools. Some modest legislative efforts in this direction in the recent Arkansas legislative session failed, opposed by the lobbyists and agencies supported by Walton money.

The NPE is an advocacy group formed by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody.

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