Posts tagged ‘Charter Schools’

March 31, 2011

Privatizing Education in NC

by Richard Edwards

This week I attended a lunch and learn sponsored by NC Policy Watch around Charter Schools in NC. NCPW has a page about the ongoing negotiations here.  You can also read a paper supportive of charter schools here, and more about the political football that’s being played here. Based upon the attendees, I was expecting a crowd of advocates who had largely made up their minds about charter schools, and generally, I wasn’t wrong.

There are a lot of strong opinions. Earlier in the week, I had spoken by phone with Eddie Goodall at the NC Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a strong advocate for charter schools expansion, and Senate Bill 8, which not only lifts the cap on charter schools, but eliminates the minimum enrollment (currently set at 65), and wouldn’t require charter schools to provide either transportation or nutrition to its students, but still allows charters to get the same rate per child as public schools.  Certainly he has a stake in this, and questions have been asked whether he’s an advocate or a lobbyist, but his main point to me was, “if it’s good for kids, and it’s good for taxpayers, we’ll figure out how to make it happen.” Seems eminently reasonable. But are charter schools good for kids?

Dr. Helen Ladd from Duke U. presented some good but dated (2002) statistics about problems associated with charter schools in NC–including increased racial segregation and decreased performance overall among students who transitioned from regular public schools to charter schools in the early years (1998 to 2002). You can read a draft of Dr. Ladd’s research online (warning: pdf).

Rep. Rick Glazer, from Fayetteville, followed, speaking on the history of charter schools in North Carolina, having been in the legislature when the original law was passed. Despite some pretty bad experiences with charter schools that failed early on, Rep. Glazier voiced support for expansion of charter schools in a limited role. There is an opportunity for independent, progressive organizations to run quality school settings and act as a learning lab for innovative practices, something that large schools systems find difficult to do. Too many charter schools too quickly, however, leads to decreased standards of quality, lost in the proliferation–as it did in the late 90’s when charter schools were new in NC.

Interestingly, both Rep. Glazier and Mr. Goodall from the NC Alliance for Charter Schools agree on this point–NC made it too easy for public charter schools to be set up in the early going, and our children paid the price. What started as an opportunity to be innovative and progressive led to a retail mentality in our schools. There needs to be a higher bar set for such a fundamental service–our educational system–than simply who can complete the application and show themselves as willing and able,  without any track record of success.

For those of you accustomed to reading my angle about human services to people with mental health issues or people with intellectual or development disabilities…what does this sound like?