Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Just Some Thoughts on Charter Schools anyone out there in the Catholic world still under the illusion that public schools are a suitable choice for their children's education?

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the State schools are increasingly centers for indoctrination with very substandard academics as well - yes, I know there are good teachers, yes, I know there are exceptions, but overall we should all be in agreement that things are bad.

This is not news.

What is surprising to me, as someone who has been in education for over a decade now, is the way in which conservative opponents of the public schools put blind confidence in charter schools, independent schools or private schools as a solution to the public schools, as if "more charter schools" will make things better.

For those who do not know, a charter school is a tax-payer funded entity (thus still technically a "public school") that operates under its own individualized charter and is typically administrated by a third party private company. This allows it to deviate from the norm on teacher wages, curriculum, and administration. This allows charter schools to follow a much more independent course; more variety.

I understand that charter schools give us an opportunity to do something better, and variety can be good. But variety for the sake of variety is not guaranteed to improve anything. Realistically it depends on the nature of the school. There are many charter schools where I live; some of them are essentially Christian schools with classical curricula; but some of them are basically Islamic schools with student bodies and faculty 95% Muslim.

The point is its really hit or miss. Just absent-mindedly advocating for more rights for charter schools is not, on its own, any sort of solution. Yes, it allows the formation of charter schools that are able to move in the right direction, but it's really a crap shoot. It's almost as if people have become so sick of the public schools that they have begun to assume that anything is preferable to the public schools and have begun to think that more alternatives, regardless of what they are, will better things.

Private, independent, or charter schools can be worse than public schools. For example, check out this little gem in Minneapolis. Make sure to browse around a bit, especially at the teacher biography pages. This is same school that recently came under heat for taking their students to a sex shop as part of their sexual education curriculum - without the permission of parents - something the Headmaster of the school is still unapologetic for.

We should know that the value of a charter school or private school is only as good as its particular charter or mission - and administration. The only Catholic private school I ever taught at had piss poor academics and terrible discipline.

Am I a charter school advocate? In one sense, no, because I don't just support "charter schools." I support particular charter schools, but it depends upon their particular charter. I suppose you could say I support charter schools insofar as more liberal allowances for the establishment of charter schools allows particular charters with classical curricula to flourish; but those same laws also allow Muslim charter schools and anything else under the sun.

I personally do not believe the future of education is with charter schools and certainly not with private. It is with homeschooling and family-managed educational cooperatives. I have no optimism that "school choice", more charter schools, or anything within the framework of the system will make anything better in the long run.


c matt said...

The Charter Schools in Houston, as far as I know, are part of the public school system and not run by private entities. Essentially, they are either "gifted student" programs (i.e., test to get in) or focused programs (we have one for visual and performing arts, and one for health sciences). I haven't heard of this private charter school thing.

Boniface said...

Well in Michigan at least they are all essentially public, in that they are funded by tax payer dollars, and subject to certain public regulations. But the actual administration of them is farmed out to third-party entities who have their own specific charters of operation, which allows a great diversity and what you get.