The Charter School Con (More Kinda Feels Like Vindication)

You know charter schools are fucked up and bullshit when financial analysts at Forbes are writing stuff like this (boldface mine):

Charter schools are frequently a way for politicians to reward their cronies….

The Arizona Republic found that charters “bought a variety of goods and services from the companies of board members or administrators, including textbooks, air conditioning repairs and transportation services.” Most charters were exempt from a requirement to seek competitive bids on contracts over $5,000….

Too bad the kids in charter schools don’t learn any better than those in plain-vanilla public schools. Stanford University crunched test data from 26 states. About a quarter of charters delivered better reading scores, but more than half produced no improvement, and 19% had worse results. In math, 29% of the charters delivered better math scores, while 40% showed no difference, and 31% fared worse.

Unimpressive, especially when you consider charter schools can pick and choose their students — weeding out autistic kids, for example, or those whose first language isn’t English. Charter schools in the District of Columbia are expelling students for discipline problems at 28 times the rate of the district’s traditional public schools — where those “problem kids” are destined to return.

Nor does the evidence show that charters spend taxpayers’ money more efficiently. Researchers from Michigan State and the University of Utah studied charters in Michigan, finding they spent $774 more per student on administration, and $1,140 less on instruction.

Expelling ridiculous numbers of students and refusing to accept special education students? Inconceivable!

But then Forbes goes all commie on us:

About the only thing charters do well is limit the influence of teachers’ unions.

Might have mentioned that once or twice.

Then there’s the sleazy bidness angle:

In part, it’s the tax code that makes charter schools so lucrative: Under the federal “New Markets Tax Credit” program that became law toward the end of the Clinton presidency, firms that invest in charters and other projects located in “underserved” areas can collect a generous tax credit — up to 39% — to offset their costs.

So attractive is the math, according to a 2010 article by Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News, “that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.

I’ve discussed this before–three and a half years ago. It was also nice to no longer be the only person on the whole damn planet who thinks Goldman Sachs and education don’t mix.

I bring this up not to point out that I’ve been saying all of this for years. But opposition to charter schools is not a ‘liberal’ agenda. It’s simply an honest assessment of the situation: charter schools, in their current incarnation*, are about busting unions, further enriching the wealthy, and rewarding cronies. On the whole, they don’t have better outcomes, and they play fast and loose with the numbers (one might calling it lying). And we’re only talking about childhood development here–it’s not like the stakes are high or anything.

Or maybe Forbes is just a shill for teachers unions.

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