Greetings and Salutations;
Last year, I wrote an essay on the issue of education in America. I covered many topics there, but, left off the difficult challenge of Charter Schools. Since it has been brought to my attention again, I am going to rectify that mistake.
Today, I want to examine the issue of Charter Schools in America. First off, what is a Charter School? The definition is “a publicly funded independent school established by teachers, parents, or community groups under the terms of a charter with a local or national authority.” This has evolved into Charter Schools going from small organizations, run by the people mentioned to being huge corporations. The situation is complicated, too, by the reality that not all Charter School actions are bad for students. Supposedly, not all Charter Schools are for-profit enterprises. However, a vast majority of them are (more on this later). The history of Charter Schools is online, and is an interesting read (some other time!) Now that they have been around for close to 30 years, though, my suspicions that their benefits are far outweighed by their costs has been proven to be true. let me lay out some issues I have with this educational model.
- They do drain money away from the Public school system…which has always been under-funded.
- The profit issue is a serious one. There are limited ways that a given business can increase profits. a) Lowering costs; b) Increasing charges. Lowering costs includes not providing the quality of equipment needed for education, including computers, textbooks, and the consumables used in the classroom. It includes paying teachers even less, and, cutting benefits that would help keep the good teachers in the system. Increasing the costs is fairly clear, and, is typical of ALL businesses.
- It has been my observation that ANY business that is for-profit is also a hot bed for corruption and malfeasance. The Charter Schools are no exemption. A Recent Article in Forbe’s points up these problems.
- I have also observed that, when a business becomes a “For Profit” enterprise with investors of any sort, its focus moves from providing a service or product, to finding as many ways as possible to suck as much money as possible from customer’s pockets and into the pockets of the investors as is possible, with as little cost and effort as possible.
- While, in theory, they are supposed to take any student that applies, the reality is that they can cherry pick which students they keep in the system. This allows them to artificially inflate the apparent quality of the job they are doing, and, also hurts the public school system by removing the students that are likely to be helpful as tutors and such. It also means that the students that wash out of the Charter Schools end up back in the Public School system…which causes their success rate to be artificially low.
- In most cases, the regulations that control the quality of education and policies of charter school systems are far less rigorous than those that govern the Public school system. This reality allows them to slide by while doing a sloppier job of education, and likely allows them to graduate students that are inadequately prepared for life today.
- I am of the opinion that, in too many cases, people use Charter Schools as they used to use Private Schools…as a way to ensure that their children will NOT be exposed to an integrated environment. The past few years have brought the level of racism in America to the surface, and forced us to admit that there is a LOT more systemic racism, and general hatred for people of color in the hearts of White America than we had been willing to see.
Now, what should we do to rectify this issue? While it is unlikely that any of these would happen, I would like to see the following changes made.
- I would like to see ALL public funding of Charter schools to halt. If they want to act as private schools, then, they are welcome to do so…just not on the taxpayer’s dime.
- The Public School system should be given increased funding, with a focus on under performing schools. Equalizing funding within a school system should improve the quality of the poorly performing schools, and not do serious damage to the ones in richer areas. My goal is to ensure that any student can go to any school in an area, and graduate from High School with the same quality of education, no matter which buildings they sat in.
- ALL Schools should be integrated. As the link I included above indicates, parents tend to want their children to go to school with other kids that look like them. While there were great strides towards integrating the systems in the 1950s and 1960s, since then, progress has slowed to a point that the strides forwards are being wiped out by slipping back into the bad old days. The reality, though, is that studies have found that an integrated environment is a great benefit to students, and gives them skills that will help them enormously during the rest of their life. I am convinced that much of the rise of Right-Wing, white supremacist groups, bigoted militia groups, and the neo-nazi organizations stem from the lack of integration and the ease with which parents can avoid an integrated environment for their children.
- If a school is not performing well, as evidenced by high teacher turnover and lowered graduation rates, the result should not be cutting their funding. Rather, I would like to see a team of auditors and problem solvers created that could go into the school, and work with the teachers and administration to see what can be done to improve the situation. Too often, these changes are very adversarial, because the “fixit” folks come in with the attitude that they are the Gods of Perfection and, the staff and administration are idiots. THat formula is almost a perfect storm of failure. However, by going in, and listening to what the staff and administration has to say, then, working WITH them to solve the problems, the relationship can be a positive one and will be productive.
- I would like to see school administration cut back a bit. I suspect that, like most bureaucracies, the School systems around the country have become bloated. As an example, when I was in Elementary School, there were several hundred students on campus. We had on Principal, who had a couple of assistants. They did a good job of keeping the place running efficiently, and dealing with issues that might arise. Now, though, the numbers of administrators has multiplied, but the number of teachers has not.
- I would like to see some of the funding for schools go to not only increasing the number of teachers, but, as I discuss in the other essay, a continued integration of computer assisted instruction in the classrooms.
- As I have mentioned elsewhere, It is vital that we, as a society, work to eliminate the contempt for education and intelligence that has grown over the past 30 years. The current administration, with its constant disrespect for experts and well educated workers has done serious damage to the country, and, as soon as possible we have to start fighting against this self-destructive trend.
God Help Us All!
Bee Man Dave