Charter schools not beneficial

Published 10:27 am Friday, August 28, 2015

The first appearance of charter schools in the U.S. was in the 1950’s as a way of protecting white segregation in the face of integration forced by Brown vs. Board of Education (1954). While the effort ultimately failed, its genesis is not all that different from the outcomes of today’s Charter schools.

The re-emergence of charter schools in the first decade of the 2000’s was touted, by its supporters to improve educational quality by bringing in dedicated teachers unaffected by complacency, inspiring students and generating committed parents. Few of those goals have been realized.

But maybe those goals were more distraction than intent, for the unfolding of the charter school movement suggests several longer term goals that are not so noble.

New Orleans represents perhaps the single largest effort of conversion from public to private schools following the re-construction of education after Katrina. Since Katrina, virtually the entire New Orleans schools system has become a mecca for privately owned and operated charter schools.

While claims of improved student outcomes have remained nebulous, the rhetoric of success has been unbounded. But the idea of success is limited by state standards considerably lower than college entry requirements and bounded by the price paid by poor and disadvantaged students harmed by the system.

A recent Tulane University Education Research Alliance study found that, ten years after Katrina, fully 40 percent of the Charter schools earned a “D” or “F” rating or a “T” rating for transitional. Further, students with lower academic levels of achievement have tended to “disappear” from the rolls as the new schools practiced “creaming” their students for accomplishments while dissuading underachievers with disciplinary actions, suspensions and tracking that keeps some students from attending the higher-performing schools.

And while parent participation was advanced as a building block of charter schooling, in New Orleans black parents have discovered they are not welcomed in the “club” of participation managed by the private owners of the charter schools. Where once these parents could join the school board, attend board meetings and advocate for their children, in the New Orleans black communities these opportunities no longer exist.

A 2010 report by the UCLA based Civil Rights Project found that nationally almost 70 percent of Black students find themselves in highly segregated schools, schools which have replaced public schools and where the alternative to return to the public schools has resulted in closed public schools. In effect, the outcome has moved minority students to schools with no better academic performance but with fewer educational options and less parental involvement.

The Rand Corporation determined, as a result of a study of Philadelphia schools, that the charter schools produced no more successful outcomes than their private counterparts.

But there is at least one significant difference in charter schools; their supporters participate in politics and contribute to political campaigns, thus assuring that charter schools have supporters in the state houses.

Consider Ohio where the charter schools have little reporting, sparse accountability and virtually no oversight. Recently a high level Ohio Department of Education official resigned after admitting elevating the grading system for charter schools. There has been no investigation of that confession and what other officials may have been involved and, to date, the state has refused to respond to Freedom of Information requests.

Promises non-withstanding, the evidence is that charter schools have increased segregation, diminished black parents participation in the education of their children, had little educational effect and politicized our educational system while generating corruption.

Was that always the plan?