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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Charter's Don't Do It Better or Cheaper

Charter's Don't Do It Better or Cheaper:


The hard spin that investors put on their own charter corporations is that they do education better, and for cheaper than those bad public schools. But, with some years of experience behind us now, it is clear that charters do neither.

The last eleven years of  my public high school teaching years were spent in a big high school that covered a part of the outer suburban ring of the Oklahoma City metro area.

Occasionally they needed me to teach a few sections of Advanced Placement U.S. History to the Juniors who wanted to tool up for college, but mostly I taught the regular U.S. History course for everyone else.

That “everyone else” category was a very mixed group of people who were special ed, those with medical disabilities, and those who were on their way to rehab. My students included the brilliant but angry, the drug/alcohol addicted, the diagnosed and undiagnosed emotionally disturbed, and the occasional athlete who just didn’t have enough time or energy to study enough for AP courses.

The Yearly Arrival of Private School Students

There was a private church-connected school in that city that proclaimed loudly each year what accomplishments their student body had shown. The general public of that city were impressed, but I wasn’t.

It’s because each year sometime around February the private school to public school sojourn would begin for those students who didn’t “fit in” at that private school and would get kicked out due to their earning enough demerits. The Juniors among them would land mostly in my classroom.

I never minded getting those students. For the most part they were pretty cool because they were glad to get out of that private school’s suffocating environment.

What I did mind was the continual bragging by the private school’s officials. I was in a unique position to see what they were doing. They collected tuition long enough to lock in the contracts that parents signed, then started kicking out those students who “didn’t work out.”

After the gleaning time, yes, they had a hand-picked group that would finish the year while my public school classroom picked up the pieces. It was ridiculously easy for them to compare and criticize the public schools for their environment while their policies actually contributed to that unstable environment.

Cherry-picking charters still don’t make the grade

My first-hand experiences with the cherry-picking of private schools has been a large contributing factor to my skepticism of investor-owned charters from the beginning. The game that investor charters are playing is an old one, finely honed by the private schools for decades.

The big difference is that investor-owned corporate charters are far more aggressive and have had huge foundations like those of Gates, and the Waltons, that buy good publicity by their largess that is actually not a gift, but a purchase of attention and viewpoint.

We now have 5-10 years of experience of those big charter Charter's Don't Do It Better or Cheaper: