Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CA Charters Under Attack? Let’s Hope So!

Image by skippyjon
The right wing and pro-charter web educational clearinghouse Media Bullpen thinks charters are under attack in California, that their precious freedoms are being suppressed and their necessarily positive innovations stymied. They also think that Emily Alpert ‘s piece in the Voice of San Diego is too hyperbolic. Yet Alpert does not question the unproven presumptions that increased “freedoms” and innovation are necessary or beneficial to students, nor the equally unproven assertion that bureaucracies limit the effectiveness of traditional public schools. She doesn’t even suggest that charters are bad or need to go. What she does do is summarize the potential implications of the numerous new state bills being proposed in California that would more strictly regulate charter schools.

According to Alpert, the new laws have been inspired by the numerous recent charter school scandals, like the cheating scandal at LA’s Crescendo schools; the fact that many charters have lackluster test scores and segregationist admission policies; and even their union busting practices. The new bills have focused on the following:
  • Capping the number of charter schools that can function in the state.
  • Preventing charter schools from giving preference to some students over others during admission, except when siblings already go to the same school.
  • Requiring paid sick leave and holidays for employees who do not teach.
  • Extending a conflict-of-interest code to charter schools boards.
  • Requiring charter schools to create safety plans and be equipped with two-way communication devices.
  • Letting school districts deny charters to individuals and organizations that have had problems running charter schools in the past
  • Setting audit standards for charter schools.
  • Allowing school districts to deny charters if it could harm the district financially.

The claim that schools need less bureaucracy and rules and greater freedom is the same bogus argument used to support deregulation of banking and industry. It has nothing at all to do with improving learning outcomes for students (or making life better for consumers), but to increase profits for entrepreneurs and CEOs. While there are certainly some rules that are redundant, outdated, unnecessary or stupid, the goal of the rules is to ensure that schools are run safely and effectively and that they provide equity in services and quality. One way they do this is through oversight and monitoring by parents, teachers and communities, something that is reduced or eliminated by many charter schools. The profit motive makes the needs and interests of children secondary and subservient to the needs and interests of investors. It also drives charter schools to oppose unions and labor rights for their employees. As important as quality schools are, they should not come on the backs of underpaid and overworked employees.

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