Category Archives: Charter Schools

Persistent Fraudulent Enrollment in Charter Schools

While privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have long engaged in a broad range of fraudulent student enrollment practices, yet another avalanche of news reports on such dishonest practices has recently appeared.

There seems to be no end to astonishing news in the unregulated and segregated charter school sector. Controversy, scandal, and charter schools have been fellow-travelers for more than 25 years.

Virtual charter schools, perhaps the most unsuccessful and unethical of all types of charter schools, have a long-standing tradition of enrolling “ghost students” (students that do not exist) in order to embezzle millions of public dollars. This, of course, is always accompanied by Enron-style accounting in an attempt to conceal such damaging financial malfeasance.

The latest debacle in the troubled charter school sector is the massive virtual Epic Charter School Network which operates mainly in Oklahoma. It has made headlines everywhere for enrolling “ghost students” and for engaging in other crimes and unethical behavior for a long time.

In related news, two scandal-ridden online charter schools in Indiana were also recently exposed and criticized for engaging in some of the same crimes as Epic and other cyber charter schools. Together, these virtual schools inflated their enrollments by thousands of students to pilfer enormous sums of public funds.

Sadly, many other examples of inflated enrollments and other scandalous practices in nonprofit and for-profit charter schools could be cited. Corruption plagues the entire charter school sector.

Keeping in mind that the final and highest stage of capitalism ensures greater parasitism, crime, corruption, and violence across society and many sectors, the public should expect a further intensification of fraud, corruption, and controversy from all types of charter schools in the coming months and years.

Whether they are nonprofit or for-profit, virtual or brick-and-mortar, as privatized and marketized arrangements charter schools engender more corruption in education and society. Privatization, as a general rule, is synonymous with corruption and inferior service.

“More regulation” and “better oversight” will not solve the problems plaguing the charter school sector. Charter schools are deregulated schools by definition; they are a main expression of neoliberal education arrangements. Further, the charter school sector is full of wealthy, arrogant, and defensive advocates who will not tolerate any individual or organization that attempts to stop their assault on public education, society, the economy, and the national interest. Charter school owners-operators are determined to seize as much public funds and public property as possible.

But this does not mean resistance is pointless or that the rich and their cheerleaders cannot be defeated. It means the public must develop new and creative ways to deprive the rich of their power to deprive the public of its claims and interests.

It can be done.

No public funds or public property must go to privately-operated charter schools. All public funds and public property must remain in the hands of the public. This is especially true given the fact that charter schools are not public schools, as many court cases in different jurisdictions have ruled over the years.

Can Deregulated Charter Schools Not Be Deregulated Charter Schools?

Privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have always been a top-down neoliberal economic project.

The main features of neoliberalism, launched at home and abroad in the late 1970s, are privatization, deregulation, and abdication of government responsibility for the well-being of people.

Charter schools meet all three criteria: they are deregulated arrangements that reflect government abandoning responsibility for education by handing it over to the private sector and the “free market,” where chaos, anarchy, and violence prevail. This is why so many millionaires and billionaires have been involved in the charter school sector for decades. For owners of capital, charter schools are a much-needed pay-the-rich scheme in the neoliberal period. Charter schools temporarily protect a section of the rich from the inescapable effects of falling profitability under capitalism.

Charter schools became marketized, privatized, deregulated arrangements decades ago when wealthy pioneers of charter schools consciously sought to deprive traditional public schools of their “exclusive franchise,” their so-called “monopoly,” on education. Neoliberal and privatizers wanted education to be outsourced and conducted on the basis of a performance-based contract, where government still pays for everything but the public is eliminated and wealthy private interests occupy center-stage. The wealthy developers of these contract schools wanted to deprive traditional public schools of all authority over the provision of education, even though public schools have always educated the vast majority of America’s youth.

By making it possible for anyone and everyone to “provide” education using public funds, all sorts of problems have increased and schools and society have been left worse off.

To call for charter schools to be regulated is a bit like calling for water not to be wet. Regulation, which is what the rich and the “free market” abhor, would defeat the neoliberal purpose and rationale for the existence and expansion of privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. Deregulation allows charter schools to be non-transparent, unaccountable, and do as they please, which means delivering poor results while fleecing the public treasury with impunity.

Eliminating charter schools would be far more beneficial to education, society, the economy, and the national interest than trying to rein them in through regulation or “better oversight,” which is not going to happen, let alone in a meaningful way.

So long as privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools exist they will drain massive amounts of much-needed public funds from public schools, while increasing segregation, controversy, and corruption. They will also perpetuate high teacher turnover rates and continue to close at a rate of 150-200 a year, leaving thousands of families angry, stressed, and disillusioned.

Defensive Charter School Advocates

Charter schools are privatized arrangements imposed on society by the rich and their retinue.

There is nothing public about charter schools. Nonprofit and for-profit charter schools lack most of the features of public schools and typically operate as deregulated businesses.

Calling a charter school public is mainly for the self-serving purpose of illegitimately funneling vast sums of public money from public schools to wealthy private interests who own-operate nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. Charter schools are essentially pay-the-rich schemes masquerading as “innovations” that “save public education” and “give parents choices.”

Charter school owners-operators would not be able to fleece public money from public schools if they were openly recognized as the privatized arrangements that they are. Most people understand that public money belongs solely to the public, not private interests. They understand that public wealth must be used only for public purposes and that private interests have no right to decide how to use public money.

Fear of losing billions of dollars in public wealth—money that charter schools have no valid claim to—easily and quickly angers profit-obsessed charter school promoters, especially in the context of a continually failing economy and a falling rate of profit for major owners of capital. Even the loss of a tiny fraction of this public money is enough to trigger a vicious reaction by the advocates of segregated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. The overriding aim of maximizing profits as fast as possible, no matter how damaging to education, society, and the economy, naturally compels charter school advocates and their wealthy backers to be belligerent, self-righteous, and irrational in protecting their narrow financial interests. They have no regard for the social and natural environment.

At a press conference on July 16, 2019 Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania did what few, if any, governors have done: he publicly called charter schools “private” and criticized them on several counts. Further infuriating charter school advocates, the governor also publicly defended public schools.

In an August 1, 2019 letter to the governor, Ana Meyers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, the state’s largest organization representing privately-operated charter schools, expressed “grave concerns” with the governor’s legitimate criticism of the privatization of public education. Meyers lashed out at Governor Wolf, saying: “I am shocked that you and your staff are unaware that none of Pennsylvania’s charter schools [brick-and-mortar or cyber] are private or for-profit institutions.” Meyers righteously tells Governor Wolf: “I would have thought that a governor who has championed public education like you have over the past four-plus years would know better. I believe that you would have a much better understanding of how charter schools operate in Pennsylvania if you took the time to visit a few of them.”

Meyers angrily repeated other worn-out assertions, diversions, and distortions that are supposed to convince the gullible that charter schools are public in nature. In this regard, a key ideological device used repeatedly by charter school advocates is to create the impression that just because something is enshrined in law, it is therefore automatically right, just, ethical, principled, and acceptable. A closely related ideological device is to treat ideas totally in the abstract so as to divert attention from the actual concrete reality of things.

When a scam as entrenched and lucrative as charter schools is at stake, the beneficiaries of such antisocial arrangements will speak and act in belligerent, irrational, and brazen ways. Unlimited greed has always had a negative toll on society.

The public must not be scathed by such desperate and predictable antics. They are a sign of weakness, not strength. The public should stay the course and keep developing new creative ways to oppose charter schools and defend public education and democracy to ensure a bright future for all.

Charter School Apologia

The frenzied promotion of illusions about charter schools by the rich reflects their growing fear of losing the power to impose their narrow interests on the public.

Mounting internal and external criticism of privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools rightly has charter school advocates and their wealthy supporters anxious. In this fractured context, it is not an accident that the discourse and agenda of charter school advocates is becoming more irrational, brazen, and destructive.

On July 26, 2019, the charter school–friendly New York Times carried another piece attempting to apologize for scandal-ridden charter schools: “How Did Charter Schools Lose Their Luster? Our Reporter Explains.”1

The short article, which explains little, introduces a conversation around the troubled charter school sector between Eliza Shapiro, New York City education reporter now working at the New York Times, and Dodai Stewart, deputy editor of the Metro desk at the New York Times. A link to a 45-minute podcast featuring the entire conversation, with questions from Times readers, is provided at the end of the article.

Throughout the article and podcast Shapiro focuses mainly on the growing backlash against charter schools, especially against punitive “no-excuses” charter schools which siphon money from public schools and implement authoritarian student discipline practices to control low-income minority students. KIPP charter schools and Success Academy charter schools are just two of the most notorious for implementing harsh and punitive control methods over student behavior, thoughts, and appearance. Numerous disturbing reports of their Skinnerian practices are available online.

Shapiro’s main goal is to find a way to co-opt criticism of privately-operated charter schools so as to prettify and preserve them. Shapiro wants the public to believe that charter school advocates are finally admitting problems exist in charter schools and that they will be fixed.

Charter school promoters know the chickens are coming home to roost, so they are eager to liquidate people’s legitimate decades-old outrage against charter schools, especially boot-camp style “no-excuses” charter schools.

But charter schools have long been their own worst enemy and cannot be prettified or improved. Their track record proves that.

By design, privately-operated charter schools are segregated, deregulated, deunionized, marketized, privatized, performance-based contracts that differ dramatically from the nation’s 100,000 public schools that have been educating 90 percent of America’s youth for generations.

Charter schools also valorize curriculum-narrowing high-stakes standardized tests and annually siphon billions of public dollars from public schools, leaving those schools, which are usually under-funded to begin with, worse off. In addition, these contract schools regularly engage in discriminatory student enrollment practices, have high teacher turnover rates, ensure inflated administrator salaries, and are continually plagued by controversy, scandal, waste, fraud, and corruption, more so than perhaps any other sector or organization in the country.

To date, charter school owner-operators have not improved or solved anything. If anything, things are getting worse in the charter school sector.

The fact that privately-operated charter schools keep multiplying proves again that evidence, logic, and research do not matter today; it demonstrates that the public needs to deprive the rich of the power to control education and the affairs of society.

Elimination of charter schools would provide a much-needed boost to public schools, the economy, society, and the national interest.

  1. How Did Charter Schools Lose Their Luster? Our Reporter Explains, New York Times, July 26, 2019.

Charter Schools Cannot Be Prettified

A July 2019 “study” funded by the pro-privatization Walton Family Foundation, “Charter School Effects on School Segregation,” reports that charter schools intensify racial and ethnic segregation, but not by much and for reasons that are supposedly understandable and acceptable. The authors of the “study” want the public to believe that we should not be too concerned about the role of charter schools in increasing segregation. We are to believe that deregulated privately-operated charter schools are really not that bad.

As opposition to charter schools grows, the public should expect a non-stop intensification in efforts by charter school advocates to keep mystifying charter schools in order to dupe the gullible. The desperate desire to prettify charter schools so as to keep looting public schools is driven by wealthy private interests obsessed with maximizing profits in the context of an economy that continually lowers the rate and amount of profit for owners of capital.

This unlimited greed compels short-sighted charter school supporters to defend the indefensible while ignoring reality. Pay-the-rich schemes like charter schools are critical to the rich and their allies. An end to segregated charter schools would necessarily mean an enormous loss of public money for wealthy private interests who operate with impunity.

It has long been known that public schools are segregated because we live in a segregated society. American society has been a class-divided society for centuries. But more than two decades of research has definitively shown that charter schools, which are rife with fraud, markedly intensify segregation, mainly by race, ability, language, and income. The segregation effects of charter schools are not small. For example, in Minnesota, where the nation’s first charter school law was passed in 1991, “charter schools are at the forefront of school segregation. Of the 50 most racially concentrated Twin Cities schools, 45 are charters” (emphasis added).1 These charter schools also underperform public schools. The work of Iris Rotberg and many others also show that charter schools have generated similar patterns of segregation in many other communities across the country.

To be sure, nonprofit and for-profit charter schools do not enhance racial, ethnic, or economic integration. Nor do they close the “achievement gap,” improve accountability, or reduce corruption. Unlike public schools, nonprofit and for-profit charter schools are notorious for regularly cherry-picking students.

The Walton Foundation-funded “study,” which does not examine economic segregation, deliberately couches the role of charter schools in increasing segregation in vague language and self-serving equivocations, intentionally promoting doubt about and downplaying the actual role of charter schools in increasing segregation. It is also worth noting that the billionaire-funded “study” does not examine the large effects of charter schools on segregation between 1991 and 1998, or between 2015 and 2019.

The public should expect desperate charter school promoters to try to get lots of mileage out of this top-down “study” funded by wealthy private interests determined to privatize education. Charter school advocates will continue to conveniently ignore extensive research that shows that nonprofit and for-profit charter schools increase all forms of inequality and stratification, while also depriving public schools of massive sums of public money each year.

  1. Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, The Minnesota school choice project: Part I: Segregation and performance, 2017, p. 2.

Charter Schools Fetishize Parents and “The Kids” While Ignoring the Role of Education in a Modern Society

The role of education in a society is to consciously pass on the accumulated knowledge of humanity to the next generation so that society keeps moving forward.

This is especially true in a modern society based on mass industrial production where all sectors of the economy are interdependent and large-scale in character.

Millions of highly-educated and skilled people are needed today to operate, organize, and develop a modern society and economy. Education is indispensable to the extended reproduction of society and the economic system, and goes beyond parents and “the kids.”

One of the key ideological devices used often by charter school advocates who embrace individualism, consumerism, competition, and Skinnerian ideology is that schools are mainly, if not entirely, about parents and “the kids.” Parents and “the kids” occupy center-stage in charter school discourse. It is as if nothing else exists or matters. There is little or no mention of the necessity for education to serve the economy, the nation, and the broader society. A big-picture view of education is generally missing. Charter school advocates rarely talk about education from the perspective of the general interests of society and a modern large-scale industrial economy. This is why charter school supporters constantly and self-servingly over-use the rhetoric of “empowering parents,” while saying nothing about the broader and deeper reasons for education in a modern society.

Public schools, on the other hand, have always recognized the value and importance of education for society, democracy, the nation, and the economy. Public schools in America came into being more than 150 years ago to engage in nation-building.

Charter schools, by their very nature, are engaging in nation-wrecking by promoting the law of the jungle, a fend-for-yourself ethos, poor results, scandal after scandal, and more.

A modern nation and economy—a sustainable future—cannot be built by deregulated schools that close frequently, are segregated, plagued by fraud, and governed by unelected people.

Don’t Be Charter-Fooled

Major problems in the charter school sector have been detailed by many researchers and writers over the years. In the last year or two, however, persistent charter school problems have been exposed with much greater depth, breadth, and regularity by more individuals and organizations.

It has become abundantly clear to more people that the charter school sector is riddled with too many serious difficulties to hide. The consequences of these problems are just too severe to deny.

In this context, some “leaders” in the fractured crisis-prone charter school sector have remained hidebound, arrogant, and dogmatic, nonchalantly ignoring endless valid criticisms and simply chugging along as if everything is hunky dory.

Others in the charter school sector have feigned concern and expressed an ostensible desire to “acknowledge problems” and “improve.” The hope is to fool the gullible by recasting the heavily tarnished image of these deregulated schools so as to prettify them and counteract growing resistance to them.

But can a charter school not be a charter school?

As a general rule, state laws deliberately and consciously establish charter schools as entities (performance-based contracts) that are destined to have all the problems that they have. Charter schools are deregulated, deunionized, and privatized by conscious design. They are not public schools, no matter how often one claims they are.

The problem is not that charter schools are not living up to their “original promise,” but that they are doing exactly what they have always been carefully set up to do: function as pay-the-rich schemes in the context of a continually failing economy and discredited political system.

Nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have always been neoliberal through and through. The false narrative that charter schools started out as humble, progressive, grass-roots “innovations” that unforeseeably got hijacked by millionaires and billionaires for nefarious ends has always been a fairytale promoted by many on the left, right, and center. There is no “going back” to the “original vision” of charter schools. Contract schools have always fundamentally been “free market” schools.

While some charter school advocates may admit to and broadcast some problems in the charter school sector, this is not the same as making everything right. For example, getting rid of authoritarian, violent, Skinnerian “no-excuses” policies and practices in many charter schools will not stop a charter school from being a charter school. It will still be segregated, deregulated, and largely deunionized. It will still have high student, teacher, and principal turnover rates. It will continue to offer fewer services and resources than public schools. Fraud and corruption will not go away. Selective enrollment and fudging test data will persist as well.

Attempts by some in the fractured charter school sector to “improve” charter schools will not fundamentally or permanently change the content, nature, and direction of charter schools. Performance-based contract schools will remain performance-based contract schools. A change in form is not identical to a change in essence.

Neoliberals, privatizers, and corporate school reformers are highly effective at generating new forms of irrationalism and disinformation to preserve and promote their antisocial agenda. No doubt, they will continue to fool some, but as the saying goes, “you cannot fix a scam,” and most scams generally have a short and troubled shelf-life.

People should remain vigilant and continue to expose, critique, and reject privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. They should step up their defense of public education and the public interest. Private wealthy interests have no place in public education. Owners of capital are obsessed only with the outmoded aim of maximizing profit as fast as possible, no matter the damage to the social and natural environment.

Opposing Charter Schools Without Really Opposing Them (Part 3)

Irrationalism and disinformation manifest themselves in endless ways. While both have intensified greatly in the neoliberal period which began in the late 1970s, the public should brace for even more of both. The obsolete forces who have long benefitted from an outdated economic system that cannot provide for the needs of the people will surely sustain a massive onslaught of irrationalism and disinformation in an attempt to preserve their class power and privilege while keeping people disempowered and disoriented. They see no alternatives to anachronistic arrangements in society and its institutions.

In Opposing Charter Schools Without Really Opposing Them: Part 1 (November 2018), I highlighted some of the forms of confusion promoted by neoliberals, privatizers, and corporate school reformers in order to block people from concluding that nonprofit and for-profit charter schools are detrimental and must be opposed.

Seven months later, in Opposing Charter Schools Without Really Opposing Them: Part 2 (June 2019), I highlighted a different offshoot of the forms of confusion highlighted in Part 1.

The core of all these different types of confusion typically takes the form of detailing many damning and indicting problems with charter schools, while still managing to find a convoluted and bizarre way to support them. It is essentially poorly-disguised support for privately-operated charter schools.

In this article, Part 3, I address yet another form of charter school disinformation distorting consciousness, harming the public interest, and enabling school privatization.

In a July 2, 2019 article in the Hechinger Report revealingly titled, “Charter schools aren’t a radical solution and neither is blaming them: Slamming charters won’t address systemic inequality or put families to work.”  Andre Perry correctly notes that social and economic problems; e.g., racism and inequality, must be addressed if we want schools, students, and society to improve. He rightly notes that the problems in the sphere of education reflect deeper problems in the wider society and that solving the latter is the precondition for the healthy development of the former. Since “Educational inequality is an outcome of larger, systemic issues,” the former can only be improved by fixing the latter. Makes sense.

But Perry is merely setting the stage to say: look, of course, charter schools have 50 problems, but let’s not go after them. What will that accomplish? It won’t eliminate inequality, will it? Let’s just casually and conveniently ignore the failed charter school project for now and focus on bigger fish. Perry explicitly states:

While I frequently criticize the current education reform movement and charter schools, I don’t believe banning the privately managed, publicly financed schools that helped define a reform era will resolve inequality. We must evaluate why this reform movement has mostly failed to deliver on promises for radical change: Education reformers’ attempts  to fix black students, teachers and districts rather than address the systemic inequality that pushes blacks to the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid. (emphasis added)

In other words, when all is said and done, no matter how rotten privately-operated charter schools are, Perry is OK with hanging on to a failed arrangement that plunders billions of dollars a year from public schools and solves no problems.

It is true that eliminating privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools that foster segregation, corruption, union-busting, poor performance, weak transparency, selective enrollment, and high teacher turnover rates will not eradicate inequality, but it is also true that eliminating all privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools will be of tremendous benefit and advantage to public schools, society, the economy, and the national interest. Billions of public dollars looted and wasted by wealthy private interests could have gone back to the public, back to its owners, back to where it belongs, and greatly benefited schools, society, and the economy.

Privatization never benefits society, education, the economy, or the national interest. It mainly increases corruption, lowers accountability, keeps people out of the equation, reduces efficiency, and makes rich people richer. Privatization is socially irresponsible.

Perry’s irrationalism and thinly-veiled support for privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools begins to make more sense when we examine his credentials.

Perry is a neoliberal who works for the Brookings Institution, an organization that has long supported many antisocial policies and arrangements. His disposition and orientation are capital-centered. Not surprisingly, Perry has also been heavily involved in the charter school sector for years.

Teachers, parents, students, principals, school board officials, unions, education advocates, child advocates, and others must remain vigilant under these dangerous conditions where reason, logic, coherence, and people’s outlook and rights are being undermined and violated by wealthy private interests every hour.

Every effort must be made to defend and promote coherence, analysis, public schools, and democracy.

Privatizers, neoliberals, and corporate school reformers will not stop their destructive assault on thinking and social responsibility. They are determined to deprive people of an outlook and reference point that serves them. They seek to keep control of education, society, and the economy in their private hands and out of the hands of the public. Privatizers, neoliberals, and corporate school reformers are growing increasingly desperate and want nothing more than to prevent people from activating themselves and their social consciousness to develop solutions that favor them.

Charter School Advocates Try to Downplay Growing Opposition to Charter Schools

Prominent charter school advocates are understandably shaken and worried about the growing tide of opposition to privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools that have been wreaking havoc across the country for nearly 30 years. Charter school supporters are speaking out more in hopes of saving these deregulated and segregated schools that often perform poorly and foster corruption.

We’ve seen this kind of resistance before, it’s no big deal” is the general refrain issued by worried charter school advocates. “Yes, we are experiencing some troubled times and blowback right now, but it is not unusual and it will eventually pass” is another variation of this revealing refrain.

Charter school promoters know that the charter school sector, which has never been grass-roots in any way, shape, or form, is in trouble. But advocates of pay-the-rich schemes like privately-operated charter schools are too dogmatic and profit-focused to see the wood for the trees. Objectively, they are unable and unwilling to come to terms with the fact that people do not want education privatized and turned into a consumer good subject to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.” People want fully-funded public schools under public control, completely free of the destructive influence of wealthy private interests.

Opposition to privately-operated charter schools is real, strong, growing, and irreversible. Individuals, organizations, and states across the country are taking real steps to rein them in. Worn-out platitudes, one-liners, lies, and absurd statements about these “innovative” schools that treat education as a business increasingly hold less sway.

Charter School Advocates Reject Analysis

Advocates of privately-operated charter schools that siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools have been a little more defensive and restive than usual in recent months.

This is to be expected given the growing number of mainstream and academic reports exposing their long-standing problems, as well as the fact that more people are seeing charter schools for what they really are.

There is a growing unstoppable social consciousness that charter schools are not just over-hyped phenomena which regularly over-promise and frequently under-deliver, but that they are fundamentally pay-the-rich schemes masquerading as “innovations” that “empower parents,” “promote choice,” and “save minority kids.”

The pious claims, platitudes, and grandstanding of charter school advocates are becoming more worn-out, hackneyed, and tired. They mean less with each passing week. Charter school advocates think that blindly repeating the same knee-jerk assertions and one-liners over and over again is the same thing as analysis and discussion. They believe that people develop convictions in a healthy and organic way by being bombarded by clichés, buzzwords, and counterfeit solutions.

Charter school supporters and promoters have always favored disinformation and irrationalism over analysis, discussion, and coherence. They have always feared that too much discussion, especially deep discussion and analysis, would expose them too much and undermine their antisocial agenda. They do not want people to think too hard and too much about what is really going on.

It is not a coincidence that in various cities charter school advocates are striving more desperately to organize more charter school “discussions” to combat the swelling irreversible social consciousness developing about major problems in the charter school sector. Of course, such “discussions” are often sponsored by pro-business organizations (e.g., chambers of commerce) and typically led by panels made up entirely, or almost entirely, of people who unequivocally support charter schools and repeat myths and banalities about them.

Some of the key topics and issues charter school advocates are unable and unwilling to analyze seriously include the following.

Blind Embrace of High-Stakes Tests

Charter school promoters never address, let alone analyze, the role, nature, meaning, and significance of expensive, curriculum-narrowing, anxiety-producing, punitive, high-stakes standardized tests produced by a handful of for-profit corporations. They are fixated on comparing and ranking schools, teachers, and students, as if this has anything to do with learning. Charter school advocates are obsessed with “win-lose” tests and feel comfortable raising no concerns about them. They automatically and erroneously assume that such tests are educationally sound, meaningful, and useful. They are too hidebound and anti-intellectual to even know what it means when someone points out that assessments today are based on psychometric pseudo-science.

Charter school promoters habitually accept the social Darwinist and Skinnerian ideologies underpinning these hazardous tests that fetishize competition and quantification, while debasing learning. But how useful and meaningful are “results” that come from assessments that are top-down and philosophically and scientifically flawed? Are civilizations built on timed, multiple-choice, memorization tests produced by large corporations? The bankruptcy of the tests charter school advocates support is also evident in the fact that there are many ways to improve test scores without improving learning. Test performance and genuine learning and growth are not synonymous. In fact, a greater focus on high-stakes standardized tests means less meaningful learning and growth. Obviously, charter school promoters have no use for such critical considerations. All they know is that high-hazard standardized tests are antidemocratic political instruments to be used for destructive neoliberal purposes.

Profound Differences Between Public and Private

Charter school supporters mindlessly repeat the disinformation that charter schools are public schools to create a pretext for seizing vast sums of public money and to conceal their inherently privatized character. They believe that a school becomes public just because it is called public or just because it receives public money. If they were openly and honestly treated as the privatized arrangements that they really are, then it would be obvious to all that charter schools have no valid or legitimate claim to public funds and assets. For this reason, charter school supporters self-servingly blur the profound distinction between public and private. They even go so far as to cynically urge the public to “move past discussions about whether charter schools are public or not.” They do not want anyone concluding that the private aim to profit from providing education will never fulfil the right to education.

Major Differences Between Choice and Rights

Another way charter school supporters avoid analysis and promote incoherence and confusion, is by manipulating the use and meaning of the word “choice” to suit their narrow needs. No one is opposed to choice as such. Everyone recognizes that, generally speaking, people should have the freedom and autonomy to select something from a list of alternatives. The key problem is that charter school advocates use choice in the narrow consumerist free market sense of the word because they view education as a commodity and see parents and students as consumers, not humans or citizens. They look at a social responsibility like education largely from the profit-oriented perspective of business and entrepreneurship. The two meanings of choice are different, however, and should not be mixed up.

It should also be recalled that charter schools usually choose parents and students, not the other way around. Unlike public schools, charter schools turn away many parents and students. Charter school advocates proudly embrace “free market” dogma. They see no problems with the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.” They are unable and unwilling to see that education is a basic human right and social responsibility that government is duty-bound to guarantee. Charter school supporters do not comprehend that parents in a modern advanced society should not have to shop for a school the way they shop for peanut butter. And they think it is normal and positive for hundreds of schools to close every year.

Why and How Public Schools Have Been Purposely Mandated to Fail by the Neoliberal State So As to Privatize Them

The last thing charter school advocates want is for people to investigate and analyze why so many public schools have been actively set up to fail by the neoliberal state. Charter school advocates have been deliberately repeating the self-serving narrative that public schools are failing in order to “argue” that students should enroll in charter schools, even though thousands of charter schools across the country perform poorly and are plagued by widespread fraud and corruption. Charter school advocates offer no analysis or discussion at all about how and why these schools have been set-up to fail by the same neoliberals behind charter schools and privatization. “Starve It-Demonize It-Privatize It” has been the mantra of privatizers and neoliberals for decades. The basic formula goes like this: first, cut funding for schools every year. Bleed them dry. Set them up to fail. Then demonize, attack, scapegoat, and discredit them relentlessly for months, even years, so as to set the stage for privatization as a “solution.” In this connection, charter school advocates also want to avoid any serious discussion on the enormous role of poverty, segregation, and over-testing in ensuring failure and chaos in America’s public schools, especially its urban school systems, which are the ones most heavily targeted by charter school supporters. Charter school boosters are adamantly opposed to any solution of these problems. But, as everyone can see, far from solving a single social, economic, or educational problem, nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have made everything worse.

Charter school promoters are opposed to admitting to, analyzing, and openly discussing numerous other persistent problems in the charter school sector. They quickly become defensive when confronted with these persistent unresolved problems:

  1. High student, teacher, and principal turnover rates.
  2. Widespread poor academic performance.
  3. Many charter school closures per year.
  4. High student suspension and expulsion rates.
  5. Unethical admissions practices.
  6. Extensive fraud, corruption, and racketeering.
  7. Increased segregation and stiff opposition to unions.

Many other stubborn problems could be listed. The point is that the crisis-prone charter school sector is causing great damage to public schools, the economy, society, and the national interest.

Instead of confronting issues, problems, and topics in an intellectually honest and rigorous manner, in a way that raises the level of discussion and thinking, charter school advocates prefer to keep things superficial and on the plane of platitudes, grandstanding, and anachronistic ideologies. There is no deep-dive into anything except how to profit off kids and the public.