Tuesday, July 10, 2007

That giant cracking sound

The sound that you heard this morning when you picked up your Star Tribune off the porch, boys and girls, was the sound of the façade that charter schools are public schools falling away and collapsing in a heap. Sure, charter schools get their money from the taxpayer, but that's where the egalitarian, equal opportunity institution ends. The evidence was in plain sight, but it took a concerned mom from St. Paul to figure it out:

A St. Paul mom's concern about the application process for her son to apply to a charter school may force many more Minnesota charters to change their student application processes.

The schools are asking for more information than state law allows, according to the Minnesota Department of Education. The information -- such as whether students are receiving special education services or their ethnicity -- could be used to deny admission.

A perusal of charter school websites by the Star Tribune quickly found a dozen schools asking for details about prospective students that go too far.

What? You mean the people at the Department of Education were asleep at the switch, Spotty?

No grasshopper. They're inert when it comes to charter school oversight. Which is not to say that Governor Pepsodent's minions didn't rush to assure us all that none of these charter schools actually used the illegally-collected information. Heaven forfend! Here's what nameless mouthpieces, somewhere in that oily, glad-handing pond of piety we call the Pawlenty administration, had to say:

Officials were quick to point out they have no evidence that schools used this information to deny admission.

Of course not. What the officials didn't say, naturally, is that we have no evidence because we've never looked, and we frankly don't care! Any edge we can give to charter schools to try to make them look better at the expense of the public schools, hey we're good with that!

And what a constellation of rat holes we have created! Here's a sample:

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, and one of Spot's favorites, Great Expectations! (Spot added the exclamation point, but it seemed like a natural)

Not that the cool names or selective admission practices have done any good.

Until we tamp down the private school plutocrats, the charter school crazies, the school voucher vultures, and the home school hyenas like Katie, Sticks, Rep. Buesgens, John Brandl, Spotty's own Geoff Michel, Alan Quist, Don Samuels, Governor Pepsodent, and all the rest, public schools, the backbone of democracy, will remain in peril. Theirs is an autocratic, theocratic vision entirely at odds with democratic and pluralistic institutions.

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