Monday, March 22, 2010
Regulating Charter Rhetoric: Enough already
I keep seeing articles and editorials like this one that almost make me ill.
People keep making the claim that somehow charters are out of control entities that need special laws to keep them from going crazy. I'm not trying to justify a charter forcing anyone to a pledge of a specific ideology. (Although even that is a difficult statement to make. If we tell kids they have to take a pledge of honesty and respect for the property of others, isn't that a bit ideological?)
Let's first consider how many charter schools display behaviors that are blatantly illegal. I haven't looked at the research, but I do read as many articles as I can find on these charters, and I have to say that even if every charter that was accused of illegal behavior was guilty, the percentage is not at an epidemic proportion.
In addition, the accusations presume that traditional public schools do not have similar issues. For example, the accusations seem to assume that all traditional public schools are neutral in their approach to ethics and student expectations.
It also ignores that fact that many school districts have issues that are either unethical or illegal. Just within the past week there are reports that the Detroit Public Schools superintendent can't write a decent sentence. Grammar may or may not be an appropriate requirement for a school district leader (I'd argue that it should be), but if that same person was hired to run a charter school, the entire anti-charter world would be all over that story.
Another example, is the fact that a charter school athletic director cheating to get his players on the court became national news. Does anyone really think that doesn't happen in a pretty fair number of traditional public schools every day? I love watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament as much as anyone else, but can you seriously look at the GPA's of those players and the average percent that graduate from a particular school and tell me that they should be called student athletes?
On the specific topic of schools teaching that capitalism is the best system (or the required belief system), it is difficult to think that there isn't a huge ideological bias behind the opposition. The number of articles opposing charter schools that have clear socialist leanings (including the one referenced above) is telling. In fact, I wish I would have saved the name of the Twitter member who tweeted the article above. When I checked the person's profile, the quote was from Karl Marx, not exactly subtle. I wonder which economic system that person favors? I assume that these people would rather have the right "ideology" even if kids aren't learning to read and write.
The other issue is that charters are regulated. They face almost all of the same laws as traditional public schools. In the same way that a public school official or teacher is found out and dealt with (although in the case of union members, it's clear that they aren't dealt with), charter schools ought to be dealt with under current laws--not knew ones.
One thing I'll be writing about soon are the three new unnecessary bills proposed in Colorado because of the fears that what happened at one school might happen at others. Instead of using the existing laws, charter schools will face more stringent requirements than non-charter public schools. I'm not looking for favors for charter schools. I strongly believe that charter schools should be accountable for results and for complying with regulations, but charters shouldn't be treated like red-headed step children. Those who obey the laws should not be harmed because of those who don't, just like we don't harm traditional school districts because of those who misbehave. There is more than enough regulation out there for all schools, including charters. Let's use those laws to make all schools behave.