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Patrick Kerkstra writes that he was always skeptical when anyone suggested that charters (at least some of them) were seeking profits. Now, having read about what is happening in Philadelphia, he is not so sure. I remember the early days of the charter movement. My colleague Checker Finn Jr. used to say, again and again, that there was a deal: if the state gives us (charters) autonomy, we will be accountable. The charters have autonomy but they no longer want accountability.
Kerkstra sees three big issues:
- Charters are no more efficient about their use of money than district officials. People should get over the belief that private=smarter, better.
- Profit-minded businesses are destroying whatever moral authority the education reform movement had.
I’ve long cringed when ed reform skeptics attacked the motives of charter advocates and others who’d like to see the public school system reinvented (or scrapped). With very rare exceptions, the individuals I’ve interviewed and spoken with in the ed reform movement over the years are True Believers: their fury and impatience with traditional public education is real and righteous. I haven’t always agreed with where they’re coming from, to say the least, but I’ve long dismissed accusations that reformers are in it for the money.
Now I’m not so sure. There plainly is a large and growing group of interests within the education reform movement that stand to profit as traditional public education shrinks….
Charters were supposed to be different. Traditional public schools were beholden: to teacher’s unions, to political masters, to a powerful class of consultants and attorneys. Charters were supposed to be the indies. But as the charter movement grows, a big corps of financial interests has grown up around it. Increasingly, charters look just as financially beholden to an array of interests, only it’s harder to tell exactly who and what those interests are.
This is a really significant problem for ed reform advocates, and I’m not sure that it can be solved. The moral clarity of the early charter movement — nonprofit, about the kids, self-reliant — well, that’s gone. Increasingly, it seems not just fair to question the motives of ed reformers, but necessary.
- The School District’s charter oversight office is still understaffed and under-resourced. And charter operators frequently bristle at the prospect of more accountability. But something’s got to give here. The charter movement can’t keep growing and eating up tax dollars while operating in the relative darkness.
Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/citified/2015/09/17/charter-school-problems/#f82Suzej5Ge7GLbg.99