Saturday, November 29, 2008

Money rat hole status confirmed

Charter schools, that is. Here's the lede from a Strib front pager last Tuesday:

When charter schools started in Minnesota in the early 1990s, they were touted as a higher-quality alternative for parents, particularly poor and minority families, looking to escape underperforming district schools.

But a study released today by the University of Minnesota's Institute on Race and Poverty finds that most charter schools have fallen short of that promise and perform worse than comparable district schools on state tests. In the process, it said, charters also intensify racial and economic segregation and compound the problem by encouraging districts to compete by creating ethnic niche programs.

"So many people are seeing charter schools as a solution to poor, segregated neighborhoods," said Myron Orfield, the institute's executive director. "The sad part is, they're getting these kids to switch schools and then they're doing worse" than district schools.

Not to mention sucking the public district's budget dry, too. The bad news is coming pretty regularly for the charter school aficionados. Here's a quote from July about another report on substandard charter school performance:

The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) made news when it released a new report on charter schools in Minnesota. (The June 2008 report, simply titled “Charter Schools,” is available at

The finding that got pundits and journalists talking is the conclusion that students in charter schools “generally did not perform as well on standardized academic measures as students in Minnesota district schools.”

So where do we go from here?

If you believe that poverty is the fundamental obstacle to educational performance, you might use this as an occasion to dismiss the role of charter schools, call for a new “war on poverty” that also includes yet more increases in funding for district schools.

Yes, John La Plante of the Minnesota Free Market Institute, that's what Spot would say! Spot says get rid of these school district parasites and the public schools would have more money to do more and better things.

But you see, boys and girls, that wouldn't further the right wing's effort to defund public education and one of its stakeholders: teachers. Specifically, organized teachers: Education Minnesota. King Banaian even had a post recently (Spot's not going to look it up; you can find it if you really want, boys and girls) denouncing the fact that public school teachers (organized) make more money than private school teachers (not so much).

Those public school teachers; they really get conservatives' goat. Overpaid and out of control: they want to teach stuff like tolerance and environmentalism, and don't want to teach intelligent design and creationism. No wonder conservatives hate 'em. Not nice and tractable like private school teachers.

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