Joy Resmovits has a good article at Huffington Post describing the growth of charter school enrollments and the absence of adequate oversight.
Currently, about 5 percent of all American students are enrolled in these privately managed schools. In some urban districts, the proportion is much larger. The districts with the greatest number of students in charters are New Orleans, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, and Flint, Michigan. In 25 districts, at least 20 percent of students attend charters.
With the support of a bipartisan combination of President Obama, Congress, conservative governors, and rightwing groups like ALEC, these numbers are sure to grow. And the privatization of one of the nation’s most essential public services will continue.
The article mentions that local school boards “argue” that charters reduce their funding. That’s not an argument, that’s a fact. When students leave to attend charters, the public schools must lay off teachers, increase class sizes, cut programs. The more charters open, the more the public schools decline, especially when they lose their most motivated families and students. This is not simply a matter of transferring money from Peter to Paul, but crippling Peter to enrich Paul.
If charters had a stellar reputation, the logic might be on their side. But there are few studies that show charters outperforming public schools even on the crude measure of test scores. With only a few outliers, most studies show that charters do not get different results when they have the same kinds of students.
Chester-Upland, Pensylvania, schools may be an example of what happens when well-funded charters (funded by the district’s own revenues) grow as the host dies. The CU schools have been under state control for nearly 20 years. The local charter is not only thriving but providing handsome profits for its founder. Meanwhile the public schools, having lost half their enrollment to the charter, are dying. A state emergency manager just issued a lengthy report with high benchmarks for future success.
The plan calls for school closings and sets goals for academic gains. The bottom line in this plan for recovery is that the public schools will be extinguished if they can’t meet ambitious targets:
““If the district fails to meet certain scholastic performance goals, such as federal annual progress targets, by the end for the 2014-15 school year, the plan calls for the schools to be run by external management operations such as charter schools, cyber charters, and education management companies.”
Is this the future of urban education in the United States? Will this be the legacy of the Bush-Obama education program?