To think about charter schools in America today, you have to separate the rhetoric from the reality. It helps to have a guide, someone who sees the man behind the curtain. Blowing smoke in the eyes of the media and the public. Fortunately there is such a man in North Carolina. His name is George Hartzman. He is a financial consultant. The smoke machine doesn’t blind him to the reality.

The rhetoric tells us that charter schools will save poor minority kids from failing schools. The reality is that charter schools produce no better results and make their sponsors rich with taxpayer dollars.

Look at North Carolina. There, the red red legislature passed charter legislation. Not all charter teachers need certification. Some people with good friends are getting very rich, like Baker Mitchell, who is on the board of the libertarian John Locke Society, which was created by zillionaire Art Pope, who happens to be state budget director. Mitchell collects rent on charters, which provide him with a few millions a year. Nice. He also sits on the state advisory board on charters.

But here’s another happy charter story. The president pro tem of the State Senate is Phil Berger Sr., who is responsible for legislation authorizing charters, vouchers, and the virulent anti-teacher legislation that is causing many veteran teachers to leave the state. You might call him North Carolina’s one-man wrecking crew of public education, except he has plenty of helpers in the legislature. When Berger’s obituary is written someday, that’s how Phil Berger will be remembered: the man who tried to destroy public education in the state and nearly succeeded until parents and citizens rebelled.

So who do you think is opening charters and getting in on the ground floor of the biggest new education industry opportunity in North Carolina? Phil Berger, Jr. No conflict there. Daddy passes the law, and junior cashes in.

I know there are a few decent charters doing the right things. But they are being overtaken by a racket. The racket is about scooping up taxpayers ‘ money while providing schools with uncertified low-wage teachers who turn over with high frequency. There is nothing idealistic about what is happening in North Carolina. It is all about the Benjamins. The politicians turning education into a money machine for their friends and relatives should hang their heads in shame.