Andy Smarick believes that public schools can’t be fixed or turned around. He thinks that the only way to solve their problems is to close them down and replace them with privately managed charters. Andy served on the board of a KIPP school, so he is confident that KIPP can do what no public school can do.

In a previous post, I called on Andy to join me in “the KIPP Challenge.” This is the challenge for KIPP to take over an entire low-performing district and show what it can do. Prove that it doesn’t skim the best students, show what happens when it takes all the kids, prove the critics wrong. Given Andy’s experience as a member of a KIPP board, I thought he should join me.

Now he says that the School Improvement Grants (SIG) are a vast waste of money. I agree with him again.

Billions have been spent with meager results. The Department of Education has boasted of double digit gains, but Anthony Cody showed the statistical game that the DOE was playing. Anthony warned last March that the DOE was “spinning the numbers,” and that the SIG program was not working.


I feel strongly that a decade from now, we will look back and realize that the billions spent on Race to the Top were a waste of money that diverted schools from their true mission of developing and educating citizens, not the best test-takers who can win a race for higher test scores.

Andy, lover of all things new, wants to see the SIG program replaced by a commitment only to new schools.

But Chicago and New York City have been doing that for years without much success. The New York Daily News reported recently that nearly 60% of the new schools opened by Mayor Bloomberg had lower passing rates than the “failing” schools they had replaced. Why do more of the same when it didn’t work? If most of the new schools do worse than the old schools, we will move backwards, not forwards.

So, my suggestion is that federal money go to build and strengthen communities as well as schools; that it be coordinated with social services and health services to make sure that children are fit and healthy; that it be spent to make sure that schools in every community have a full rich curriculum with experienced teachers; that it be used to make sure that every school serving poor communities has strong parental involvement and social workers. And that we honor our nation’s commitment to equality of educational opportunity.

I know Andy won’t agree with my prescriptions. But I don’t agree with privatizing education.