This whole strategy of school reform is having devastating results. … Neighborhood schools, especially those in African American and Latino communities, are being closed rapidly and without recourse. … Worthwhile charter schools such as ACE Leadership High School in Albuquerque, which actively recruits drop-outs and struggling students, are likely to fall under the club, because they may not produce the rapid test score gains this burn and churn reform strategy demands.
I have always been suspicious of charter schools. Here’s why: The idea of giving parents a choice of where their kids go to school is good. The idea of schools coming up with unique ways to attract students is good. But the way we’ve executed it is really, really bad. The main problem here is that people want a “silver bullet” that will fix public education without increasing taxpayer funding for education. That bullet doesn’t exist. The schools that are failing are failing because they are wildly underfunded and understaffed. Closing the school down and starting five new schools with just as little funding and no oversight isn’t going to fix the problem.
We need to fund our public schools better. I went to public schools my entire life, K-college graduation. My parents lived in a wealthy area where the schools spent nearly double per student than the national average amount. I got a world-class education, despite teacher’s unions and tenure and all the other supposed ills of the modern public school system. I had small class sizes. I had special classes for gifted students. I had gym class and music and art and foreign language and I still had time to learn to read and write and do math. And I, along with most of the people I graduated high school with, am a well-educated and productive member of society.
Oh, by the way, I’m from Chicago. Rahm Emanuel closed tons of public schools and replaced them with charter schools. All the schools I went to are still up and running, because - surprise! - the well-funded public schools are doing just fine. In my graduating class of more than 1,000 people, only two didn’t go on to a four-year college.
It wasn’t some magic formula or alternative curriculum or any of the other things charter schools promise. The taxpayers funded our education, and they’re getting a return on their investment. Now, poor students are the victims of these horribly managed charter ventures while rich kids continue to go to their well-funded public schools. Charter schools are increasing the class divide, not closing it.