At the annual conference of the NewSchools Venture Fund, which raises millions to launch charter schools, there was a sour and tremulous mood, according to Matt Barnum in Chalkbeat. 

A group from the Oakland Education Association picketed outside the meeting, and the conveyors focused in on “the unions” as their big problem. It was especially galling to them that some of their own charters had been the target of strikes. The report did not indicate that anyone thought seriously about the teacher turnover for which charters have become noted. Nor about the gap between the sky-high salaries for charter administrators and lowly teachers.

Nor did there seem to be any self-awareness about the near-daily scandals in the charter industry. Did they discuss the public revulsion to for-profit charters or for-profit EMOs and CMOs? Apparently not.

They were aware that the teachers’ strikes during the past year specifically targeted charter schools, but they didn’t know why. Must be those damn unions. They really didn’t get that they were not only left out of Red4Ed, but seen as the enemy of teachers in states that had weak unions.

The level of self-scrutiny, as reported here, seemed defensive and shallow.

The event offered a look at how charter leaders from across the country are coming to grips with new limits on their growth and political clout. And there are signs that their anxiety is warranted, with charters losing support particularly in blue states and cities and among Democrats.

NewSchools attendees were reminded of the opposition when dozens of protestors, organized by the Oakland Education Association, gathered outside the conference hotel downtown. One of their chants: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, charter schools have got to go.”

“They are a leech onto the public system,” said Harley Litzelman, an Oakland teacher who protested at the event.

But charter backers also used the event to explain how they’re planning to confront what they see as the danger posed by teachers unions, internal and external.

The charter industry will never understand what went wrong until they stop looking for enemies and examine their own ranks and their own behavior.

Several years ago, I was invited to speak at Rice University in Houston by KIPP and TFA. At that time, I warned them that if the charter industry did not clean out its Augean stables and get rid of the grifters, entrepreneurs, dilettantes, and crooks, they would all be tarnished. They didn’t listen. They still lack the capacity to look inside to learn why things are going so badly.