Friday, March 23, 2007

Let 150 flowers bloom

There is a movement afoot in the Minnesota Legislature to limit the number of charter schools to 150. Nick Coleman writes about it in his column today, Friday, March 23, 2007. Nick thinks it is about time we reigned in the charter school movement—many states do have a limit on the total number of charter schools that may exist—and Spot does, too. Nick observes:

The need for a cap is clear: Charter schools, authorized by the 1991 Legislature (and limited, at first, to eight schools) have wildly outgrown their original intent, suffer from a lack of rigorous financial controls (several have gone bankrupt, others have been robbed by their managers), and have not significantly outperformed traditional public schools (according to the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, 44 percent of the state's charter schools did not make adequate progress last year, including the school where Minneapolis City Council member and public school critic Don Samuels sends his children). [italics are Spot's]

"There are too many of them that suffer from really bad management, financial improprieties or sweetheart deals" involving charter-school sponsors who contract for services to their schools, says Charles Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. "It's time to put the brakes on, and take a hard look to figure out what's right or wrong."

Boy, that makes Don Samuels look pretty silly, doesn't it boys and girls? Nick continues:

"We have all these laws to try to integrate society, and now we're creating all these segregated little pots," says Kyte. "The advocates of charter schools are relentless, and we're going to have 500 in five years, if we don't pause."

The "experiment" is out of control and having the opposite effect of what was intended: Instead of reforming public schools, it is damaging them.

This week, Minneapolis school leaders recommended closing six schools, including one, North Star Elementary, that by any measure was a successful inner-city school. After a strange-brew coalition of education reformers, school-voucher pushers and charter-school drumbeaters picked off hundreds of the school's kids, leaving it with a shattered student body and plummeting teacher morale, there was nothing left. So a fine neighborhood school is being shuttered in a city that has seen a devastating plunge in enrollment while charter- school advocates -- some of whom openly brag about eliminating traditional public schools -- pick up the pieces and the per capita tax dollars. Without doing demonstrably better, in many instances.

Actually Nick, sometimes the charter schools do demonstrably worse. From a NYT article that Spot mentioned last summer:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — Fourth graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in reading and math than comparable children attending charter schools, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Federal Education Department.

This so annoyed the Bushies in the Department of Education that they said they wouldn't publish the report any more.

Spot knows adults who have volunteered at North Star Elementary. Everything Nick writes about its fate is true.

In September of last year, Katie wrote an ode [the column won't be up any longer at the Strib website; the link is to Spot's post about the column] to a charter school featuring a special martial arts academy for boys. Dominatrix that she is, Katie loved it because of its emphasis on discipline. Any nutjob with whatever whacky idea (including some sub rosa theocratic ones) can start a charter school if he can find a few suckers, and you know what P.T. Barnum said about suckers, don't you, boys and girls?

In writing his post, Spot collected some names of charter schools in Minnesota that are feeding at the public trough:

Skills for Tomorrow (algebra, English, chemistry, and physics are so yesterday), New Voyage Academy (beam me up, Scotty!), Face to Face Academy (another combat school, apparently), Family Academy (where you can bet your arse they don't discuss family-making), Ascention Academy (a Big Coop special no doubt; Spot would like to look at the curriculum for that one), F. Scott Fitzgerald Writing (for all the parents who wanted to write the next Great American Novel but now hope little Johnnie or Janey will), Loveworks Academy (Spot's not touching that one with a stick), Higher Ground (here's a little of the sub rosa Spot was talking about), and one of Spot's favorites, Great Expectations! (Spot added the exclamation point, but it seemed like a natural).

If you weren't convinced already, boys and girls, consider the fact that the central poobah at the Center of the American Experiment, that clot of deep thinkers about feel-good self-absorption and narcissism, is also a mover, and especially a shaker, in the private school movement.


No comments: