Nearly one Minneapolis public school family out of four has decettamped from the Minneapolis Public Schools, to either the suburbs (either relocating or merely sending kids to school there, under the state’s open enrollment law), private or parochial schools, or in many cases charter schools. In Saint Paul, it’s closer to one out of eight; either way, that’s a lot of parents who’ve decided that the public school system just doesn’t do the job for them.
I was one of them. I pulled my kids out of the public system five years ago. With one of my children, the big public high school just didn’t pack the gear. With the other, it was more like child abuse.
The big statistic is this; in the inner city, charter school students in the inner city are very predominantly minority, poor, and speak English as a second language. Their parents – like me, only black and H’mong and Latino, and with serious complaints about the achievement gap – are among the most passionate advocated for charter schools you can possibly find.
And they – we – having been voting with our feet. And the Teachers Unions hate it when families get uppity.
The Teachers Union and the DFL (pardon the redundancy) appear to be starting one of their periodic orgies of attacking charter schools, and is apparently yelling “Jump”; Kackel Dackel at Cucking Stool, a dutiful leftyblogger, yells “off what?”:
“Charter schools are designed to boost student achievement” says the advertisement. That put me in mind of a post that Rob wrote last spring:
Charter schools crash and burn in Minnesota
(The link is to a Rob Levine piece that notes that, yes, some charter schools have closed ignominiously. Some schools’ sponsors or administraitons got in over their heads. Some did their best, but the rules are just plain tighter for charters. And yes, when you put government money out there, some shylocks will find ways to take it; inner-city DFL political correctness certainly played a role; that is a story worth an entire article on its own.
According to Rob’s post (and statistics from the Minnesota Department of Education in it), charters fail at a rate seven times greater than public schools in Minnesota.
Which, if you think about it, is a really pointless statistic. Charter schools can fail – and sometimes they do. They have no safety net. If they are badly-managed, they can close – as Bill Cooper’s “Friends of Education” did with one of their schools that didn’t pack the gear – or can be shut down by the Department of Education. What happens when a district school, or an entire district is badly-managed? They ram through a tax levy (and if the DFL gets its way, they won’t even have to ram it past voters) and fix things. If the failure is academic, they waddle through the interminable “No Child Left Behind” system, with years on probation and, eventually, a “closing” that resembles a shell game more than a sheriff’s sale. Public school districts can even declare bankruptcy, and reorganize (at exquisite taxpayer expense); if a charter school goes bankrupt, it’s done.
How about academic failure? Public high schools are insulated from failure by the “Area Learning Center” system; kids who are dragging down the curve and who don’t drop out are shunted off the books to “ALCs”, where their grades don’t count against the school’s, and district’s, averages; they’re the district’s mulligans. Charter schools – which, contrary to some lefty propaganda, don’t get to pick and choose their students – have to work with what they’ve got. Before the Department of Education can shut things down, the parents often largely vote with their feet, again.
It’s easy for a charter school to fail. It’s very, very hard for a public school to fail.
So who writes this propaganda? The website listed is publiccharters.org. Although its primary purpose seems to be lobbying, it’s a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, with just under six million dollars in gross receipts for 2009. There is no information in the linked 990 identifying donors, and the website is likewise silent.
Worth looking into, don’t you think?
No, not really. I mean, big whoop; non-profits set up a non-profit to publicize themselves. (But do you know whose donors would be interesting to uncover? I digress)
But while Kackel Dackel is interesting in badgering those he disagrees with, and it’s never really all that interesting, he’s really left a big rhetorical clinker hanging out there; the implication that charters really don’t boost student achievement. The Department of Education – and teachers-union flak groups, like “MN2020” – periodically publish “studies” showing that charter schools lag the public schools’ achievement.
These “studies” always, invariably, without exception fail to control for demographics; every single one compares apples with axles. They also fail to control for motivation; many families go to charter schools after the public school system has nearly extinguished their kids’ interest in learning and given up on them. Fortunately, I did that, at least in part – in response to one of MN2020’s endless, Teachers-Union-funded hit pieces, I compared apples to apples. And then I did it again.
More in coming weeks, as the DFL/Unions/their pet non-profits/the leftyblog chanting party ramps up the attack.