If there’s a reason why charter schools are popular in some quarters–and they can be especially divisive in the inner city–it’s because they are viewed as ‘public private schools.’ There’s a hierarchy in urban areas (not so much in the burbs). First, parents either want to send their kids to an elite private school or elite public school (e.g., Boston Latin, Hunter Prep in New York City). Failing that, they’ll send their kids to a ‘second tier’ school (often a Catholic or other denominational school). Finally, rather than sending their kids to a ‘regular’ public school, parents will try to get their kids into a charter school, since these schools are often viewed as publicly-funded private schools (for instance, charter schools often have a ridiculously low retention rate).
That’s why I’m not surprised at all that the largest Texas charter chain (sorry, did I write “chain”? I meant system) has a slight creationist problem:
When public-school students enrolled in Texas’ largest charter program open their biology workbooks, they will read that the fossil record is “sketchy.” That evolution is “dogma” and an “unproved theory” with no experimental basis. They will be told that leading scientists dispute the mechanisms of evolution and the age of the Earth. These are all lies.
The more than 17,000 students in the Responsive Education Solutions charter system will learn in their history classes that some residents of the Philippines were “pagans in various levels of civilization.” They’ll read in a history textbook that feminism forced women to turn to the government as a “surrogate husband.”
Responsive Ed has a secular veneer and is funded by public money, but it has been connected from its inception to the creationist movement and to far-right fundamentalists who seek to undermine the separation of church and state.
The dirty secret of education reform is that charter schools are perceived not as a way to improve public education, but to replace public schools with private-like schools (what happens to the rejected and expelled kids, well…). Given that mindset, it was only a matter of time before religious fundamentalists infiltrated the charter school system.