Charter school rebuttal


Courtesy of Creative Commons

Justice Lovin

In the March 27 issue of The Paisano there was an op-ed that advocated for charter schools. It did so by presenting statistics without context in a way that erased the detrimental effects charter schools have on the communities they prey upon.

Charter schools are a project of right wing ideology. They do nothing to address the problems they identify in the current school system, which to be clear is far from perfect, but indeed make those problems worse by dismantling the structures public schools use to ensure equitable treatment of students.

The author cites studies that found lower crime rates among male winners of charter school lotteries as evidence of the advantages of charter schools, but does not acknowledge the ways in which these lotteries act to exclude working class families. Charter school lotteries require parents to come to meetings that working people often can’t attend. Rather than address poverty and the ways poverty creates higher crime rates and lower educational attainment, charter schools self-segregate and leave the problem to fester, failing in one of their primary obligations to the community.

Another way that charter schools segregate students is one they proudly advertise: their small class sizes. Charter schools, because they are publicly funded (for profit) schools, are “open to everyone”; however, unlike public schools, charter schools can cap admissions and turn students away. Is it any wonder then that charter schools use their admissions processes to select (either through explicit policy or through tricks like the “random” lottery) only the most able students (and subsequently leave public schools with less funding over all for a student population with more learning disabilities and special needs)? Charter schools also use these tactics to exclude undocumented people and refugees, who are legally entitled to (and innately deserving of) a free public education despite their needs as English language learners.

There are of course charter schools that target low income and minority populations in their admissions process. Many of these are like ECOT, an online charter school in Ohio, which misrepresented the number of students it was serving and made minimal efforts to actually monitor the quality of student work, functioning essentially as a state funded pyramid scheme. Charter school advocates, I’m sure, would be quick to condemn the use of charters to defraud the taxpayers of their money and students of their education, but only on this large scale.

I say this because charter schools, even if they get less funding per student as last week’s op-ed claims, typically have higher administrative costs than public schools while spending less on instruction. They are able to do this by providing lower pay and fewer benefits for teachers, who are already notoriously overworked and underpaid. Whether or not the school winds up closing is beside the point, the for profit logic of charter schools and school privatization will always spend less than they could on students—that’s the ‘for profit’ part. No one should profit off of taxpayer money, especially not by taking it from children and schools.

In the same way mass incarceration has replaced slavery, charter schools are replacing segregation. By dressing up “separate but equal” policies in the language of choice (and using the machinery of racialized economic inequality instead of outright force), conservatives insidiously belie the true nature of their political project: entrenching and expanding status quo inequality that is racist, sexist, ablest and classist. If charter schools genuinely improved outcomes for all students, I would be the first to endorse them, but they do not and they cannot until they address the systematic oppressions that are responsible for inequitable treatment and outcomes.