Recently the Education Writers Association Blog posted a “debate” between distinguished economist Helen Ladd of Duke University and charter advocate Robin Lake of the Center for Reinventing Public Education about whether charter schools were harming public schools financially. Ladd had completed a study of the amount of money that districts in North Carolina had lost to charter schools. Gates-funded CPRE exists to sell charters and portfolio districts.

Jane Nylund, an Oakland public school parent, sent the following comment to the EWA:

“As a supporter of public schools, and as a parent who has experienced firsthand the financial damage done to portfolio districts like ours in Oakland, it is disappointing but not surprising to see how the authors of this debate on financial impact to districts fail or simply ignore the fact that charter and district populations are different.

“Clearly, this debate was framed around the myth that charters do more with less, when in fact, they do less with less. District school students cost more because of higher levels of special education (which CRPE conveniently leaves out), as well as higher ELL and FRPL in many cases. District schools also provide food, transportation, after-school programs, and enrichment programs such as art, music, and sports. District schools also value wraparound services such as health clinics, on-site nursing care, psychologists, and counselors. Charter schools aren’t required to provide any of this, nor are they required to have experienced teachers to educate the neediest kids.

“So in summary, charters take the cheapest kids to educate, and then unfairly compare the cost to districts which provide many important services for ALL kids. Anecdotally, the $57M that our district has lost to the 40+ charters that have opened here has impacted our district to the point where they have decided to eliminate 50% of our sports programs that serve our district children.

“There is no debate, here. That is a fact. Please do your research next time and use a different source than CRPE if you still feel the need to “debate” the financial impact of all this disruption. CRPE is front and center of the privatization movement that has caused so much financial misery in Oakland. “Nimble” is code for school closures and teacher layoffs, so that more unaccountable charters can have our district buildings. “Sticky costs” is code for experienced teachers, which CRPE wants to classify as variable costs ala Milton Friedman.

“CRPE would like nothing more than to see “nimble” districts hire and fire cheap teaching labor at will; helps get rid of those “sticky costs”, and also to close down our schools to keep us nice and “nimble”. Going forward, impress us with a well-balanced debate complete with complete, accurate, well-documented, unbiased information. That’s a lot to ask, isn’t it?”