Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Charter schools in name only

It's well established by now that charter schools are a success. Students who attend them do better than their counterparts in traditional government schools, and parents with kids in charters are much more satisfied. There is even evidence that traditional public schools benefit from the competition charters provide.

Assuming that liberals don't kill the charter movement, as they are attempting to do in Michigan and Washington D.C., the key question becomes whether the charter philosophy can be expanded to act as a model for all of public schooling. I strongly believe that it can't, because those who wield power -- "educrats" and their union allies -- won't allow it. Once it becomes clear to them that the public is rallying behind charters, those who control traditional schools will embrace the charter movement, assume power, then proceed to devolve charters back into something that looks very much like the public schools system that dis-serves us now.

Andrew Coulson blogs about this phenomenon on the Cato blog, stating, "If you want to know what charter schools will look like in a generation or so, just look at the public school status quo."

The defining characteristic of charters is a greater degree of autonomy. Charter school principals have much more freedom over how their schools operate. They have control over such things as hiring and firing practices, school scheduling, and discipline. These are the things that make a school work. And these are the very things the Obama administration and the teachers union are steadily working to undermine.

The proposed new restrictions, regulations, and oversight will strip away the things that allow charters to succeed. At that point, they will be charter schools in name only, and those who have worked to destroy them will credibly be able to argue that they have failed.

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