Tough Questions to Ask About Charter Schools

Classroom Students School ChildrenThe powers that be in the Democratic Party, including our President, have made Charter Schools their main vehicle for educational renewal in low income communities. And there are more than a few civil rights leaders, and elected officials in Black and Latino communities who view Charter Schools as a chance to give families in their neighborhoods better educational opportunities.

We have now had six years of strong support for Charters from the Obama Administration, backed up by Race to the Top money.

It is time to ask some hard questions.

In those six years have we:

  • narrowed the gap in educational achievement by race and class, whether measured by test scores, high school graduation rates, college completion rates, or any other holistic measure?
  • helped stabilize and improve inner city neighborhoods and protect them from gentrification, displacement and demographic inversion (moving the poor out of cities into the suburbs)?
  • created a stable force of talented committed teachers in inner city communities with a substantial number of them living in the communities where they teach?
  • helped to reduce neighborhood and school violence?
  • disrupted the school to prison pipeline?

mark naisonIf the answer to all or most of these questions is no, we — meaning advocates for public education — need to get in an honest conversation with the civil rights community about charters, understanding the basis of community support for these schools while respectfully pointing out how real estate interests, profiteers and ambitious politicians have taken what began as an experiment and turn it into a scorched earth policy that may well be doing more harm than good.

Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent


  1. Reverend Draco says

    The sooner Public Indoctrination Centers go the way of the Dodo, the better.

    They were built on the Prussian Industrial Model, and it is designed to fail – at least, it’s designed to fail to educate the students.

    The entire premise behind US public schools is: to create obedient workers for the Corporate Machine, and to create Cannon Fodder for the War Machine.
    These are the tools used: Conformity over Individuality. Procedure over Innovation. Control over Empowerment. Fear and Isolation.

    These are not the tools of an actual Educator – they are the tools used by Tyrants, the Incompetent, and plain old every day Sociopaths.

    When your kids end up in the 70% of all high school graduates who are illiterate (and over 80% who are innumerate). . . remember, I warned you.

  2. jackrabbit says

    I believe Ryder missed the forest for the trees. As an education worker in a community college for 25+ years I watched the debate about Charter Schools very closely. The proponents of these pie-in-the-sky institutions claimed they would make a tremendous social difference as students moved away from the strait jacket of public education with its unionized teachers into a free market with scab teachers willing to push the agenda of the corporate world. The result has been further impoverished public schools with whole areas of learning demolished or diminished: art,music, physical education and needed services such as counseling, school nurses and good nutrition programs. Oh, and we could return to economically sanctioned segregation in education while claiming to do good. Sort of like the folks who claim slavery was good for the slaves.

  3. Ryder says

    I think the “questions” posed in this article are false questions… the Charter Schools did not have the mission to address ANY of those issues.

    You don’t ask: “Has the increased use of solar energy helped reduce medical outcome inequity.” Why? Because solar energy is not the accepted means to address that issue.

    This is a rather intellectually dishonest article… is sophistry.

    They either provide a good education for the buck, or they don’t (compared to public schools).

    Yes Mark, you *do* need to get into an honest conversation.


  4. Leonard Isenberg says

    Charter schools have two purposes: to maintain that status quo by assuring that those going to public school are taught rote information and obedience in lieu of the analytic abilities they would need to be equal members of a putative democracy; and to “privatize” the estimated $1.3 trillion a year that presently is spent on public education with 87% going to “bad pervert teachers” aka professional teachers – if you want a comparable scam, think recent credit default swaps and sub prime scams. While we hear a great deal about “teacher jails” and their cost, what we are not told is that LAUSD saves approximate $60,000 in just the first year in combined salary and benefits, when they get rid of these seasoned teachers for folks just out of college- in 2011 they got rid of 853 teachers at the top of the salary scale for a combined savings of $51 million- far greater than the $21 million spent on “rubber rooms” for falsely charged teachers.

    As implemented charters hire novice teachers, while institution like LAUSD and others like it around the country headed by Broad Academy superintendent school graduates that target and remove teachers at the top of the salary scale on false charge, while turning more and more schools over to charters that take as much as 40% of the state ADA budget for administration purposes.

    All this would be fine if it made better schools, but only 17% of charters do better, 46% do the same, and 37% do worse than public schools they replace.–if-charters-dont-work-just-lie-and-say-they-do.html

    When one sees the appointment of 6 year Daily News Reporter Barbara Jones veteran to become LAUSD Board Member Tamar Galatzan’s chief of staff, one understand why one comment on my blog referred to her as “a stenographer for LAUSD and not a reporter”- payback for services rendered?

    More to the point, in a world where 5 corporations control public and private media in this country and reporters either report what they are told or lose their jobs, it is no wonder Ms. Jones spent her 6 years at the Daily News lobbing softball questions at LAUSD, while never once questioning the factual inconsistencies of what they were told. Sadly, she is not alone in selling out the public and more specifically the Latino and Black communities that make up a de facto segregated LAUSD (90%) that remains significantly more segregated today than it was 60 years ago when the landmark case of Brown vs Board of Education (1954) said “separate but equal is inherently unequal.”

    When it comes to public education Americans have a difficult time accepting that those running it have become a self-aggrandizing mafia. The late Supreme Court Justice Stevens showed just how unaware he was as to what was going on in public education when he denied certiorari to the case of a wrongfully terminated Chicago teacher, “I’ve got to believe that those running our public schools are good people.” NOT. Alas, nothing could be further from the truth, because if you educate Latinos, you lose your cheap labor force and if you educate Blacks, you have to look at 400 years of reprehensible treatment that regrettably continues unabated.

  5. babysoft says

    The answer is definitely no! Please, please, please let the conversation begin before our public schools are gone and education is nothing but corporate for-profit entities, leaving further behind the (so called) no child left behind!

    • Reverend Draco says

      Right. Because Public Indoctrination Centers are doing such a great job of leaving no child behind. . .

      Asking, “Without government, who’ll run the schools?” is like asking, “Without slaves, who’ll pick the cotton?”

        • Reverend Draco says

          Without government, who’ll pay for education?

          That’s easy.

          The people who use the schools. One is not forced at gunpoint to pay Denny’s for meal they never ate when they never entered a restaurant – it’s exactly as criminal to use guns to force people to pay for your education – which, by the way, you never got. If you’d have actually paid for your own education, instead of receiving stolen property. . . you should ask for a refund.

          I’ve read your sort of “opinion” before – except that it was never your opinion to hold, but merely a conditioned response.

          There is hope for you – if you’re not afraid to give over the propaganda and see the scam for what it really is.

          Google “Prussian Industrial Model” for the first step.

          • babysoft says

            So you believe only those who can ‘pay’ should be educated? Not everyone should be educated whether they can afford to pay?

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