The educational establishment is calling in its markers with the mainstream media, and beating the drums against charter schools in particular, and school choice in general.
Of course, it’s the same set of out of context factoids they trot out every 2-3 years.
Finances: Some charter schools have a hard time making a financial go of it. Of course they do; they can’t run to the taxpayer and crank up the local education mill levy (“for the children!”) whenever they spend their way into a hole, the way the district schools can.
Grades: Some charter schools, especially schools in urban areas catering to black, Latino, Asian, immigrant and Native American kids. lag the public districts in terms of achievement. We’ve been through this; back in 2009, after Nick Coleman joined into a previous round of catcalling charters, I ran through the stats. Some charters – including many urban charters full of minority and immigrant kids – spanked the public districts. Others lagged.
Paternalism: The great unstated fact that none of charters’ opponents ever addresses; 80% of urban charter kids are minorities and immigrants. Every black, Latino, Asian, Native or Somali kid that leaves the public school system is leaving the the reservation that the DFL is counting on to train its future voter base.
But charters in the city – especially the ones catering to older kids – have two handicaps, as I showed in 2009:
- Burnout: They take a disproportionate number of kids who’ve been terribly failed by the district schools, and have had their love of learning – something pretty much every child is born with – beaten out of them pretty decisively. It takes a good charter some time to help a kid back to the point where he or she gives a crap again. With some, it never works. With others, it does – but rarely overnight.
- Cooked Testing Books: After age 16, the big district schools can shunt their less-enthusiastic students, or the ones with difficulties (criminal records, kids of their own, and on and on) off into the “Alternative Learning Centers”, or ALCs. There, they’re off the books; their test scores aren’t held against the district. Charters have no such option; every kid’s score counts.
If someone in the educational-industrial complex ever wanted to get the fact about charter schools versus public schools, they could do two things:
- Cut The Umbilical Cord: Let public schools exist on their per-student allotments and whatever money they could raise themselves. I know. It’ll never happen. If it did, over half of public schools would shut down in a year.
- Longitudinal Testing: Every single current comparison of public and charter school achievement relies on straight-up comparisons on how students are doing right now. They are the average score of every student in the charter school, versus the average of every kid in the public school that hasn’t been shunted into a diversion program. But if they did a longitudinal study comparing how individual students did over time – specifically, comparing how students who left public schools with low achievement fared over the rest of their educational career, versus control groups of similar kids who stayed in the public systems – that would be more accurate (and, given the graduation rates for Twin Cities public schools, more damning.
But we’ve been through all this before.
The real question today is, what’s behind this latest round of out-of-context piss-balloon-throwing from the educational-industrial complex? Why are they attacking charter schools this time? Why is Big Education’s propaganda machine going to work to slag the hundred labors of love that make up the Minnesota charter school sector?
Why? Oh, why?
Oh, right. Minorities getting all uppity. And as they leave the public districts, that’s a lot of jobs, and funding, for the political class that are harder to justify.
It must be stopped.
And that’s why the left’s useful idiots are attacking charters this year. And next year.