I have long been opposed to charter schools. The idea that public money should go to organizations that have no accountability to the public appalls me. The fact that many schools are run by for-profit organizations sickens me. Educating children should not be something uses taxpayer money to reaps profits for investors, particularly coupled with the whole lack of accountability issue. That the track record of charter is at best mixed - despite the ability of these schools to cream the best students - further illustrates what a sham this is. Charter schools take advantage of rightfully desperate parents and well-meaning do-gooders and mock the meaning of universal education. I know that charter schools claim that they don't cream because they hold lotteries for admittance rather than testing children. However, a lottery itself creams because some adult has to be committed enough to the child to enter the lottery. Do (most) foster parents or neglectful parents run out to enter their wards in the lotteries? Since they are not likely to do so, this leaves out some of the most at-risk children.
Further, since charter schools are not mandated to serve every eligible student, they can just kick out those who disrupt the program. School don't run programs for children with special needs, and "troublemakers" can be removed efficiently. After all, the local public school will just take them in since they have to, so it's not like the charter school is doing a disservice to those kids. Yet even with these advantages, charter schools are not walloping public schools when it comes to test scores. (For the record, I think the recent emphasis on test scores as an end all and be all is also disgusting.)
One of the good guys in the documentary Waiting for Superman (which I did not see) is Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). Other than their ridiculous insistence on charter schools, I like what HCZ does. I think it absolutely makes sense to invest in the families that live in an entire neighborhood. I love that early childhood education is an important part of the plan, and it starts with infancy not preschool. However, the charter school thing... According to New York Times:
The school, which opened in 2004 in a gleaming new building on 125th Street, should have had a senior class by now, but the batch of students that started then, as sixth graders, was dismissed by the board en masse before reaching the ninth grade after it judged the students' performance as too weak to found a high school on. Mr. Canada called the dismissal "a tragedy."
Right. This is not creaming and not giving up on students who need help. This is not violating a child's right to a quality education based on ability. Can you imagine if a public school even tried to do that? Of course they wouldn't.
At the end of the day, charter schools will never, ever be the answer. In the meantime, shortsighted liberals, desperate parents, and scheming conservatives will have used charter schools to blow up whatever foundation for universal public education is left and then what? Yeah, we'll definitely be waiting for Superman.