For many years, I have written about the charter school movement. As you know, I label the majority of these schools “Partial Schools,” because they deprive students of a comprehensive, interdisciplinary curriculum. They discount the need for teacher certification and experience, and they duplicate many services and programs the taxpayers are already providing.
What happened that created a chaos of charter schools?
The Koch-ALEC machine saw ‘school choice’ and ‘charter schools’ as a vehicle to carry out their mission. Within a short time they were able to control legislatures, by-pass or infiltrate the state school boards, and set up appointed (not elected) boards/organizations to “supervise” charter schools. These new boards stripped away accountability.They opened the gates to a chaos of partial schools with little accountability to children and taxpayers.
In most states, the politicians in charge followed the direction of corporations controlled by The the American Legislative Exchange Council. (ALEC), and the parent of this organization, the Koch-funded continuation of the John Birch Society and its tenets. (Google ALEC, and verify this information). These powerful, well-funded politicians have several guiding tenets:
1) To destroy public education (not just district schools).
2) To destroy all forms of worker representation (associations, unions);
3) To “privatize” public tax dollars for their own use and profit
4) To end Representative Democracy in America.
Charter schools, like district schools, are set up to fail
Charter schools are organized to provide access to public tax dollars. We understand that, but they are actually designed to siphon dollars away from the majority of students in district schools and thus damage district schools and eventually shut them. Too many operate for profit, or to take money from public funds for personal or corporate gain. Too many cheat students because they operate “partial schools.” An example: Virtual Schools.
Many partial schools are set-up to destroy the teaching profession by discounting the importance of experience, certification, professional standards, and associations.
Charter schools disperse dollars citizens pay for the education of children, to banks and financial managers, management corporations, Real Estate purchases and leases, individuals serving on their governing board, nepotism, curriculum re-packagers, religious groups, and testing corporations. Public tax dollars too often go to individuals (often through the corporations they run) who gain “ownership” of these ‘public’ schools and their resources, and milk them for profit.
Charter schools are given a limited amount of dollars for each child served. A large percent of this per-capita does not go toward the educational program, it goes to replicate the services the public is already paying for. Taxpayers pay twice. Children are cheated.
Waiving experience and certification for teachers allows charters to hire low-paid, unqualified individuals like Teach For America kids, friends, relatives, or idealistic certified teachers at starvation wages. This in no way serves children, but it saves money that may keep the doors open. These conditions eventually kill the charter school.
The reality is that the sincere and dedicated individuals who operate charter schools are set-up to fail, thus carrying out the mission of those who hijacked the charter school concept as part of their Ideologically-driven attempt to destroy public education.
So, why do we have charter schools? Can we get back to their original purpose?
I was part of a community team of parents, educators, businessmen, and retired professionals who worked for almost a year to define and create the charter school movement, and a model K-8 charter school. We worked closely with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. We created and opened the second charter school in our state in 1994.
Based on the strict educational guidelines then in place, we established that charters schools could be formed to demonstrate new and better approaches to education if they adhered to the Comprehensive Curriculum, and the Essential Skills for each discipline. We believed that these new approaches, when proven, could be exported back into the public district schools.
Each charter was given up to five years to prove their approaches. If they could not show that their changes were more effective for the children served, they would be closed. We developed evaluation methods and specific teaching measurements focused on Mastery Criteria Checklists.
The operating guidelines for charter schools* were adopted and put in place by the State Board of Education. *The accountability guidelines for K-6 schools are different from those for middle schools. High schools require different guidelines.
The first charters followed these strict accountability guidelines, but as noted above, the movement was taken over and accountability deleted.
What must happen?
It is time for a merger of successful charter schools with their public school districts. It is time to support the creative and risk-taking educators who, at great personal and financial risk, have stepped outside of the often petrified public education systems and demonstrated other effective ways. It is time they, and their
proven ideas, join and strengthen district public schools, and that they stay in leadership roles as proven change agents.
It is time to close the floodgates of public tax dollars that are being drained from our district schools. We must stop replicating the resources the public is already paying for, including all operation and capital dollars, into programs that better serve children. It is time to democratically elect all school governing boards. It is time to confront those whose clear mission is to destroy public education and the teaching profession. We educators and taxpayers must unite to save America’s great public education system.