Early this summer when Alex Johnston told a Minnesota Meeting how to hurt public school teachers, he recounted an anecdote about a charter school in Connecticut that was having attendance problems with certain students. It turned out that this particular charter school required students to wear uniforms, and that the truant students didn't have enough money or parental support to regularly wash their clothes, resulting in the students staying home rather than showing up for school wearing dirty clothes. Johnston giddly asked the crowd - "What did the school do? They installed washing machines and dryers in the basement," which resulted in a "double whammy when parents showed up with their children to do their laundry."
Simple solution, right? Only - what school in Minnesota would do the same? They have had almost $2 billion - TWO BILLION DOLLARS - withheld by the state of Minnesota. They're having trouble paying the heating and busing bills, let alone installing washers and dryers for the families of their students.
Just yesterday President Obama told NBC that money alone isn’t the cure for America’s ailing school system. Try telling that to the producers of the anti-teacher movie about to hit theaters called Waiting for Superman, which profiles successful charter schools in New York as examples of the possibilities of choice in education. Only what you won't see in the movie is that two-thirds of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone funding comes from private sources - funds that provide free medical care and social supports for children in those schools.
Obama might have been right that money alone won't solve America's education woes - the problems go much deeper than that - straight to the heart of the society that produces the children that populate our schools. But the converse is also true - starving regular public schools of funds, as Governor Bridgefail has done in Minnesota makes the problems that much worse. And it is emblematic of our education discourse that the successes pointed to by education deformers are as much due to hidden extra outside money and support as due to the freedom of management afforded by charter schools.
UPDATE: From what I can find, schools in Minnesota apparently can require students to wear uniforms; but it appears the school themselves may have to pay for them.