Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Charter School Scam

a review by Edd Doerr

Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover of Public Education: What's at Stake?, by Michael Fabricant and Michelle Fine. Teachers College Press,  2012, 151 pp, $25.95.

In June Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) published a major study of charter schools, concluding that three-fourths of them continue to be either worse than or no better than regular public schools. And this despite the fact that they enjoy such advantages over regular public schools as the ability to skim students from more "concerned/functional" families, to serve proportionately far fewer special needs kids, and ease in pushing out students they don't want.

Social scientists Michael Fabricant and Michelle Fine explore every angle of the two decade old charter school movement in this devastating comprehensive analysis and critique. While charters were originally conceived as a small scale experimental reform run by professional educators and tied to local communities, the movement was soon taken over by interests aimed at private profit, undermining and defunding public education, busting teacher unions, and pushing the country to the Right.  Public attention has been distracted by a few good charters and a tsunami of propaganda veering to the political right, often the same forces behind the school voucher and tax-credit voucher drives to divert public funds to church-run private schools (as in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, etc).

Charters "churn" teachers far more than regular public schools, disrupt many public schools through locating charters in the  same buildings, pay their non-union teachers less, force many public schools to be consolidated with consequent damage to the poorest communities, spend less per student on actual instruction, and provide a cushy deal for private profiteers.

The book defies facile summary despite being short. But it is must reading for all who care a  good public education for all kids of every class,  race and condition. A healthy democracy needs well-funded good public schools for all kids.

Finally, this fight to defend public education is far more important than placing little bench monuments in Tobacco Road towns or getting worked up over religious statues on ski slopes in Montana.

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