Friday, June 22, 2018

Diane Ravitch: Charter schools are making our public schools worse - The Washington Post

Charter schools are making our public schools worse - The Washington Post

Charter schools are making our public schools worse

Diane Ravitch is a historian of American education at New York University.

In 1988, teachers union leader Albert Shanker had an idea: What if teachers were allowed to create a school within a school, where they could develop innovative ways to teach dropouts and unmotivated students? The teachers would get the permission of their colleagues and the local school board to open their school, which would be an R&D lab for the regular public school. These experimental schools, he said, would be called “charter schools.”
Five years later, in 1993, Shanker publicly renounced his proposal. The idea had been adopted by businesses seeking profits, he said, and would be used, like vouchers, to privatize public schools and destroy teachers unions. He wrote that “vouchers, charter schools, for-profit management schemes are all quick fixes that won’t fix anything.”
Shanker died in 1997, too soon to see his dire prediction come true. Today, there are more than 7,000 charter schools with about 3 million students (total enrollment in public schools is 50 million). About90 percent  of charter schools are nonunion. Charters are more segregated than public schools, prompting the Civil Rights Project at UCLA in 2010 to call charter schools “a major political success” but “a civil rights failure.” They compete with public schools instead of collaborating. Charter proponents claim that the schools are progressive, but schools that are segregated and nonunion do not deserve that mantle.
The charter universe includes corporate chains that operate hundreds of schools in different states. The largest is KIPP, with 209 schools. The-second-largest has 167 schools and is affiliated with Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen. About one of every six charters operates for profit; in Michigan, 80 percent  are run by for-profit corporations. Nationally, nearly 40 percent of charter schoolsare run by for-profit businesses known as Educational Management Organizations.
The largest online charter chain, K12 Inc., was founded with the help of former junk-bond king Michael Milken and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The biggest single virtual charter was the Ohio-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, which collected $1 billionfrom Ohio taxpayers from 2000 until its bankruptcy earlier this year. The charter’s 20 percent graduation rate was the lowest in the nation.
Charter schools pave the way for vouchers. More than half of states now have some form of public subsidy for religious and private schools. Voucher schools are not bound by civil rights laws and may exclude students based on religion, disabilities and LGBT status.
Charters are publicly funded but privately managed. They call themselves public schools, but a federal court ruling in 2010 declared they are “not state actors.” The National Labor Relations Board ruled in 2016 that charters are private corporations, not public schools. As private corporations, they are not subject to the same laws as public schools.
The anti-union Walton Family Foundation  is the biggest private financier of Continue reading: Charter schools are making our public schools worse - The Washington Post