Category Archives: Charter Schools

To Think or To Work? That Is the Question

On both sides of the political aisle, workforce-training reforms are being touted as the be-all, end-all of America’s public education system. Right-wing “school choice” proponents, such as President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, push corporate charter school programs with workforce-training curriculums. Left-wing “community schooling” advocates, such as Democratic Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Julián Castro, push “lifelong-learning” programs with school-to-work curriculums. Both “conservatives” and “liberals” concur: the purpose of public education is workforce development.

It’s nice to know that, in this divisive era of Trump outrage, America’s political representatives can still reach across the aisle to agree on something. Too bad this bipartisan movement will reduce the US schooling system to a corporate-government bureaucracy that deploys Big Data to train students to fill labor quotas prescribed by workforce-planning algorithms.

Career-Aptitude Pigeonholes:

In this new age of rapidly advancing technologies that are automating “low-skill” jobs, many parents are understandably concerned that their children’s schooling will fail to prepare them to survive in a hi-tech future where the economy is driven by computers. However, parents should be skeptical of hyped-up “career pathways” curriculums that train students in hi-tech skills prescribed for job placement in the fields of “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” (STEM). While this polytechnical training might offer quick shortcuts to hi-tech jobs, such vocational tech-training pigeonholes the student into a predetermined job with limited upward mobility.

Such “cradle-to-career” training is based on three of the “six basic functions” of schooling systematized by Harvard Professor of Education, Alexander Inglis, who believed that public schools are instruments of Statecraft and social engineering. In “Against School,” Inglis’s authoritarian “principles of education” are paraphrased by the renowned New York State Teacher of the Year (1991), John Taylor Gatto:

  1. The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role. . . .
  2. The differentiating function. Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits—and not one step further. . . .
  3. The propaedeutic function. The social system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.

By pipelining students directly from the classroom to the job site, career-pathways curriculums diagnose each student’s social role by consigning him or her to a job caste that is directed by Big Business partnering with publicly funded school-to-work programs. Furthermore, to efficiently determine each student’s socioeconomic role, the cradle-to-career “conveyor belt” differentiates the student body into a hierarchy of managers and wage slaves who are trained with minimal job competences so that the chain of economic command is not destabilized by social ambitions.

Simply put, career-pathways do not teach students how to choose their own careers and social roles; rather, they teach students job-specific skills for limited employment openings which are predetermined by the market projections of the politically connected corporations that partner with government-funded schools.

Psychometric Learning Analytics for “Personalized” Job Training

Rather than applaud school-to-work curriculums that train students to keep up with the evolution of a hi-tech economy, perhaps school-boards should be disconcerted about the encroachment of the Big Tech economy on schools and learning. With growing popularity, Big Data is becoming an integral component of career-pathways training through “adaptive-learning” computers that literally reduce students to numbers. By data-mining a student’s responses to digital lessons, adaptive-learning software (such as Dreambox, Alta, and Brightspace Leap™) can tabulate student-learning algorithms which diagnose students as mentally “fit” or “unfit” for certain jobs. The result is a psychometrical “bell curve” system that pathologizes a student’s workforce “competences” based on his or her “cognitive-behavioral” algorithms.

Such data-mining of student psychometrics might be an efficient way to distribute job placement through workforce-schooling programs. Nonetheless, acclaimed education theorist Alfie Kohn documents that the psychological conditioning methods of schooling advocated by “economists and a diehard group of orthodox behaviorists (who have restyled themselves ‘behavior analysts’)” usually “backfire” and “undermine the very thing we’re trying to promote.” Indeed, workforce-schooling psychometrics are “undermined” when “personalized” student-learning profiles “backfire” by socially engineering the student body into a workforce caste hierarchy with limited job opportunities that restrict upward mobility.

A Post-Humanism?

If parents are worried that their children may get run over by the hi-speed, hi-tech automation economy on the horizons, their attempts to reform education so that students can “compete” with the new computerized economy may actually exacerbate the problem. Rather than encourage school-to-work curriculums that train students to “interface” with a techno-automated workforce, perhaps it is more important to teach the humanities of philosophy, history, and the arts so that the next generations can make humane decisions which ensure that technological evolution serves the inalienable rights of human dignity and conscience.

We are at a crossroads here: the “career pathways” to a technocratic economy, or the “classical way” to a moral economy based on the “categorical-imperative” values of human dignity and conscience. I am not saying that technological advancement cannot progress alongside the preservation of human values. But in a computer-automated economy driven by Big Data, algorithms must be programmed with certain values; and without the preservation of humane values in the minds of students, there will be nothing to ensure that human morality is programmed into the algorithms that plan the work forces of the future. If we amputate the arts and humanities from the “new education,” which worships the supposed infallibility of data, what will it profit our children to gain the world of hi-tech jobs only to lose their humanity?

DeVos Plan For More Pay-The-Rich Charter Schools

On October 10, 2019, U.S. Secretary of Education, billionaire Betsy DeVos, unveiled an antisocial plan to further incentivize the rich to establish more charter schools to line their pockets at the expense of young people. DeVos has actively promoted school privatization schemes for decades; she does not support public education.

In addition to many well-established ways that the rich already use charter schools to enrich themselves, millionaires and billionaires will now also be able to use privately-operated charter schools to receive large tax cuts. And over time these tax cuts get bigger.

Under the latest DeVos school privatization scheme, “investors” will be able to maximize their profits by using the “Qualified Opportunity Fund” (part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) to “invest” in charter schools in “economically distressed areas” known as “opportunity zones.” Specifically, this new “financing opportunity” can be used by the rich to avoid taxes on charter school facilities and real estate acquired through the “opportunity fund” and sold later. The government has already hired a private business, Leed Management Consulting, Inc., of Silver Spring, Maryland, to help owners of capital exploit this privatization scheme.

While such government-backed gold rushes are ostensibly designed to help poor and low-income families, especially minorities, they have a track record of doing the opposite.

One of the main tasks confronting the polity at this time is how to deprive the rich of their ability to repeatedly violate the public interest with impunity. Extensive research and experience confirm that there is no justification for the existence of charter schools, yet more charter schools keep popping up. How to stop this rapid privatization of public education is an urgent task that concerns everyone.

Privately-operated charter schools are wrecking public schools and harming the economy and the national interest. Recently, another report (School Choice in the United States: 2019) was issued, this time from the U.S. Department of Education, showing that privately-operated-owned charter schools, which have been around for more than 25 years, perform no better than public schools.

In addition, charter schools have long been plagued by endless scandal and corruption, high student and teacher turnover rates, inflated administrator pay, poor transparency, unelected school boards, and a reputation for rejecting many students—all while continually siphoning enormous sums of public money and public property from public schools.

The World Can End But Charter Schools Are Here To Stay Forever

This is another version of: it is easier for capitalists to imagine the end of the world than it is for them to imagine the end of capitalism.

Charter schools are pay-the-rich schemes that emerged in the midst of the neoliberal period that was launched at home and abroad in the late 1970s.

Charter schools are one of many mechanisms the rich have concocted since the 1980s and 1990s to counter the unavoidable law of the falling rate of profit under capitalism.

Mainstream economists often refer to this inescapable law as the law of diminishing returns. This is when the “return on investment” (ROI) is lower than the investment itself, especially over time. Diminishing returns are a built-in tendency of capitalism that affect the capitalist economy as a whole.

To avert the inevitable fall in the amount and rate of profit over time, capitalists necessarily concoct antisocial ways to increase their profits in the course of competing with other owners of capital. This can take the form of more aggressive advertising, changing expiration dates on products, charging people more fees and taxes for commodities and services, planned product obsolescence, going to war, lowering workers’ wages and benefits, cutting social programs, printing money, transferring public money to owners of capital, eliminating regulations and taxes for big corporations, and more.

Owners of capital are obsessed with maximizing profit as fast as possible, no matter the cost to society and the environment. Their drive is egocentric, narrow, and antisocial in character. Major owners of capital are not concerned about and cannot objectively see phenomena from a human-centered perspective. They are not interested in nation-building or a diversified self-reliant economy. They do not care about what happens to anyone or anything else as long as their self-serving interests are satisfied. Anything that obstructs their narrow interests is seen as a big problem, especially the striving of the people for their rights. The world we live in must privilege the narrow interests of owners of capital above all else.

This is why when California passed a “landmark law” (AB 1505) on October 3, 2019 changing charter school laws in the state, the president of the California Charter Schools Association, Myrna Castrejon, said: “The thing I love the most about the bill is that it affirms that charter schools are here to stay.” Castrejon also said that, while the new law in California “modifies the rules of the road for renewals and approvals of charter schools, we do believe this agreement does put to rest the idea of whether charter schools have a place in the landscape.” The website of the California Charter Schools Association had this to say about the first major overhaul of California’s charter school law in 27 years: “The announcement of a compromise deal on charter public school-focused legislation, AB 1505, affirms that charter schools are here to stay as a permanent and valued fixture of California’s education system” (emphasis added). Castrejon is pleased that there is no scenario that excludes pay-the-rich schemes like privately-operated charter schools.

Charter school promoters cannot imagine a world with no privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. They can picture public schools collapsing and disappearing, but they cannot conceive of a world free of privately-operated charter schools that increase their private wealth at the expense of kids.

Charter school advocates are not about to abdicate antisocial efforts to fleece as much funds and property as possible from public schools. The intense downward pressure on the rate of profit is too great for owners of capital to relinquish charter schools as pay-the-rich schemes. The rich desperately need charter schools as a mechanism to avert diminishing returns in a continually failing economy. It does not matter if charter schools are segregated, deregulated, unaccountable, deunionized, scandalous, rife with corruption, perform poorly, are run by unelected individuals, reject many students, have many uncertified teachers, overpay administrators, and undermine public schools. Last year, wealthy charter school promoters spent $23 million backing Antonio Villaraigosa (against Gavin Newsom) for Governor of California because of his strong support for crisis-prone charter schools.

There is a lot at stake for neoliberals, privatizers, and corporate school “reformers.”

Charter school promoters are very pleased that charter schools were not wiped out in California, but they are still nervous to see such organized opposition to privatized education arrangements. They did not count on it.

The worn-out charter school narrative that relentlessly demonizes, humiliates, and scapegoats public schools is not gripping as many people as charter school supporters would like. Most people still love and value their public schools, even the so-called “failing” ones. This means the fight between human-centered forces and capital-centered forces is far from over. In all likelihood it will grow more intense and more people will see non-profit and for-profit charter schools for what they really are.

California passed its charter school law in 1992. With more than 1,300 charter schools, California has the most charter schools in the country. Most of the state’s charter schools are in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, and the nine counties in the Bay Area near San Francisco.

False and Diversionary Charter School Dichotomies

There is no shortage of articles, books, reports, blogs, and websites that continually detail the perpetually scandalous and troubled nature of charter schools. Not a day goes by without a report on some sort of infamy, fraud, mismanagement, corruption, or failure in the unaccountable charter school sector.

But even articles and reports that are critical of charter schools often lapse into confused logic and arguments, revealing that the thinking around charter schools remains muddled.

This endless confusion and incoherence repeatedly conceals and renders forgettable the profound significance of the core feature of all charter schools: their inherently privatized nature.

As many have shown, charter schools are not public schools. Among other things, charter schools are not governed by elected officials, cannot levy taxes, reject many students, and have been deemed to be private entities by more than a few courts—all while receiving enormous sums of public money. In addition, thousands of charter schools perform poorly and many close every year, leaving thousands of families feeling abandoned, violated, and angry.

To some extent this damaging incoherence and confusion about charter schools is understandable because wealthy charter school advocates and their conscious and anti-conscious cheerleaders incessantly promote many myths, lies, and disinformation about charter schools in order to distort consciousness and disorient people. This makes it challenging to sort out important issues and figure out what is really going on. Myths, lies, and disinformation leave many people vulnerable to bogus ideas, arguments, views, and assertions.

Some of the most common false and diversionary dichotomies deployed by charter school supporters to perpetuate maximum confusion about charter schools include the following:

  1. regulated versus unregulated charter schools
  2. for-profit versus nonprofit charter schools
  3. good versus bad charter schools
  4. high-performing versus low-performing charter schools
  5. mom-and-pop versus corporate charter schools
  6. school district-approved versus “totally autonomous” charter schools
  7. well-funded versus poorly-funded charter schools
  8. no-excuses versus regular charter schools
  9. urban versus suburban charter schools
  10. small versus large charter schools
  11. online versus brick-and-mortar charter schools
  12. mission-driven versus “free market” oriented charter schools

Other harmful dichotomies designed to misdirect people down dangerous rabbit holes could be listed, but at the end of the day what matters most when discussing charter schools is not whether they are regulated or not, online or brick-and-mortar, for-profit or non-profit, arts-focused or science-themed. All charter schools, regardless of the many ways they differ in secondary characteristics, are essentially the same: they are all privatized, marketized, corporatized arrangements, and this key feature has always set charter schools apart from public schools.

False and diversionary dichotomies, and the distorted consciousness they produce, provide cover for the transfer of colossal sums of public money and public property from public school systems to wealthy private interests that own-operate-manage charter schools. It is not surprising that fraud and corruption saturate the non-transparent and segregated charter school sector.

Fortunately, even in this violent and chaotic context, there is broad and growing opposition to privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools. In the coming months and years the quality of this opposition will become even better as the descriptions, exposures, and analyses of charter schools get better and stronger, leaving many charter school supporters more isolated and discredited. The privatization of K-12 schools has not solved a single problem confronting society and its members; it has just made some rich people and their entourage richer at the expense of kids.

Florida: Terminate Public Funds for Charter Schools

Nearly 10 county school boards in Florida recently took collective action to pursue a case against privately-operated-owned charter schools in the Florida Supreme Court.

These public school systems that serve tens of thousands of students oppose the dreaded HB 7069 legislation, which the neoliberal governor of Florida, Rick Scott, signed into law in 2017.

The law does many things, including allowing the transfer of enormous sums of public money from public schools to privately-operated-owned charter schools, thereby leaving public schools in a worse position. Understandably, public school systems want to stop the flow of tens of millions of public dollars to privately-operated-owned charter schools.

As in other states with privately-operated-owned charter schools, Florida’s charter schools are notorious for being non-transparent and rife with corruption. Many also regularly perform poorly. And like many other non-profit and for-profit charter schools across the country, Florida’s charter schools under-enroll different types of students and intensify segregation. Public schools in Florida serve considerably more poor students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities than privately-operated-owned charter schools.

Florida passed its charter school law in 1996. Currently, about 290,000 students are enrolled in more than 650 privately-operated-owned charter schools.

No Justification For The Existence Of Charter Schools

One of the main claims to fame of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools is that they will deliver bigger and better results than public schools in exchange for greater flexibility and autonomy to operate than public schools.

Two recent reports, however, build on extensive previous research which shows that academic performance in privately operated charter schools, which have been around nearly 30 years, is weak or no better than academic performance in public schools.

Charter schools, which annually siphon billions of dollars from public schools and are often rife with corruption, have not delivered on the big promises they have made for decades.

First Report

New Mexico passed legislation enabling the creation of privately-operated charter schools more than 20 years ago. Currently, the state has about 25,000 students enrolled in approximately 100 charter schools.

In September 2019, the neoliberal pro-charter school Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University published a detailed report showing that academic performance in privately-operated charter schools in New Mexico is similar to academic performance in public schools.

Putting aside the punitive and unsound character of high-stakes standardized tests used in the U.S., CREDO states that:
The findings from our analyses show that in a year’s  time, the typical charter school  student  in New Mexico makes similar progress in both reading and math compared to the educational gains that the student would have made in a traditional public school. This result represents an improvement in the charter sector compared to earlier periods in which the performance of charter school students lagged behind that of their TPS  peers. Further probing reveals that the aggregate  results  are  strongly influenced by the performance of online charter school students. Enrollment in online charter schools is associated with substantially weaker learning gains in both reading and math and that the inferior performance of online charter schools offsets the positive impact of brick-and-mortar charter schools on student growth in reading. The learning   gains of charter school students in various subgroups are comparable to the gains of their TPS peers in the same subgroup. (p. 2, emphasis added)

In other words, charter schools in New Mexico have been performing worse than public schools for many years, and they are only now beginning to perform similarly. Further, cyber charter school performance remains abysmal.

From the perspective of a parent concerned about academic performance, it appears that charter schools may not be a better option than public schools, especially when considering that charter schools also have higher teacher turnover rates than public schools and tend to be more segregated and less accountable than public schools.

Second Report

A major 100-page report released this month by the National Center for Education Statistics, School Choice in the United States: 2019, found no measurable differences between the performance of charter schools and public schools on national reading and math assessments from 2017. This finding persists even when parents’ educational attainment were factored into the results. The report states:

Academic Performance: In 2017, at grades 4 and 8, no measurable differences in average reading and mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were observed between students in traditional public and public charter schools (Indicator 6). (p. ix)

It is worth recalling that back in 2009, 10 years earlier, CREDO found that most charter schools in the U.S. perform the same or worse than public schools. Today, across America, thousands of privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools perform poorly. They have never been the silver bullet charter school advocates have claimed they are.

While there is no justification for the existence of charter schools in New Mexico, there is really no justification for the existence, let alone expansion, of charter schools in the country as a whole. Why create and multiply charter schools when they perform about the same or, as is often the case, worse than public schools? This question is even more pertinent when considering that charter schools are more segregated, more corrupt, more deunionized, and less transparent than public schools.

Privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools have been great for owners of capital and their retinue, but bad for so many parents, students, teachers, and principals.

The challenge confronting the society as a whole is how to ensure that the country has fully-funded, publicly-governed, world-class, integrated public schools in every neighborhood. Treating education as a commodity and parents and students as consumers is not the way forward. A modern society based on mass industrial production cannot operate and develop well on such a basis. Closing all charter schools will help improve education, society, the economy, and the national interest in many ways.

Charter School Advocates Grow More Belligerent

Steadily mounting opposition to privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools is inevitable and becoming a bigger thorn in the side of nervous neoliberals, privatizers, and corporate school reformers.

Terrified of discussion, investigation, and analysis, and hell-bent on privatizing schools, no matter the cost to society, on September 11, 2019, “Chiefs for Change” issued a letter righteously and arrogantly demanding that everyone blindly submit to the destructive neoliberal agenda of privatizing schools to further enrich major owners of capital.

“Chiefs for Change” has been around since January 2015 and is comprised of dozens of aggressive privatizers and corporate school reformers (“educators”) masquerading as “bold nonpartisan innovators.”

While “Chiefs for Change” casually admits that there are many “school choice systems that have been largely unmonitored and often unaccountable, or that have increased the racial and economic isolation of students,” the organization desperately wants the public to suspend all critical thinking, blindly support school privatization, and automatically believe that “Chiefs for Change” simply wants what is best for students and is not concerned with financially enriching themselves and their allies. “Chiefs for Change”  is vehemently opposed to any critique, rejection, and roll-back of pay-the-rich schemes like charter schools.

Not surprisingly, in their self-serving September 11, 2019 call, “Chiefs for Change” makes no mention of the need to fund public schools properly, to stop scapegoating and humiliating public schools, to eliminate punitive high-stakes testing, or deal seriously with inequality, poverty, and segregation. Everything is approached from the antisocial perspective of parents and students fending for themselves like individuals and consumers. In this outmoded view, the best parents and students can do is shop for a school that “works for them” and hope that  it does not close a few months later for corruption, mismanagement, or poor academic performance.

The public should not forget that charter schools are private schools that annually siphon billions of dollars from public schools and that thousands of charter schools across the country perform poorly. In addition, about 200 charter schools close each year and student, teacher, and principal turnover rates in charter schools remains very high. Moreover, the charter school sector is segregated, crisis-prone, and rife with fraud and corruption. Accountability and transparency are very low in the charter school sector. No amount of arrogant demands by the rich and their allies can hide these harmful realities.

The public can and must reject the toxic rhetoric, demagoguery, and agenda of the rich and their entourage. Privatization does not serve the public interest.

Many Teachers Keep Leaving Charter Schools

Yet another academic study shows what many have documented for years: the teacher turnover rate in charter schools remains much higher than the teacher turnover rate in public schools.1 High teacher turnover rates has been a longstanding problem for privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools across the country. Here is a typical example:

Average [teacher] attrition across the charter school sector in Massachusetts has hovered around 30 percent for the last decade. That is more than double the rate at traditional districts in the state, which have been averaging about 12 percent over the last 10 years.  (Jung, 2019, para. 5, emphasis added)2

Charter school teachers also leave the profession of teaching at higher rates than public school teachers.

This revolving door of teachers (“charter churn”) is one of many reasons that the quality of education is lower in privately-operated charter schools than public schools.

Students need a large number of qualified professional teachers who work together regularly for extended periods and develop collegiality, continuity, stability, and common understandings. An environment in which teachers are coming and going frequently is not good for students. Too many different teachers in a short period of time is destabilizing for students and lowers the level of education. Continuity, stability, and high-quality teaching and learning are impossible under such conditions.

A main reason that privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools lose so many teachers so frequently is poor working conditions. Generally speaking, conditions in public schools are better than conditions in privately-operated charter schools. Overall, teachers in public schools tend to make more money and have more credentials and years of experience than charter school teachers. Their jobs are also more secure, have better benefits, and are usually unionized. The same cannot be said of teachers in charter schools. Most charter school teachers are not unionized and often lack any type of pension benefits. They also tend to work longer days and years than their public school counterparts. Further, charter school employees, like employees at a business corporation, are usually considered “At Will” employees, which means that an employer can terminate an employee at will for any reason or for no reason at all.

As “cost-cutting” and “revenue-maximizing” private entities that fetishize the individualism, competition, and consumerism of the “free market,” charter schools do not put the right to education in first place. Narrow business considerations come first. Everything is viewed as a narrow budgetary issue. Charter school advocates try to deny all this and strive to prettify charter schools in order to fool the gullible and to keep siphoning funds and property from public schools. In this way, privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have made many “entrepreneurs” very wealthy—all at public expense.

  1. Gulosino, C., Ni, Y., & Rorrer, A. K. (2019, August). Newly hired teacher mobility in charter schools and traditional public schools: An application of segmented labor market theory. American Journal of Education, 125(4), 547-592.
  2. Jung, C. (2019, January). Mass. charter schools test new ways to reduce high teacher turnover. WBUR.

More Than 300 Privately-Operated Ohio Charter Schools Have Closed In 20 Years

Across the country, thousands of charter schools have closed in under 30 years. Corruption and poor academic performance are two key reasons for the high failure rate in the charter school sector.

Between 1998 and 2019, 306 charter schools closed in Ohio. On average, that is more than one charter school closing per month for 20 years.

Ohio is often called the “Wild West” of charter schools because of the intense chaos, anarchy, and violence in the charter school sector in that state. Ohio’s charter school laws are notoriously antisocial and charter school–friendly. Accountability and transparency are essentially zero in Ohio’s charter schools. Endless stories involving embezzlement and fraud in Ohio’s charter school sector abound. Bad charter school news is relentless and continuous.

Unfortunately, the entire segregated charter school sector is much like this.

Chaos, anarchy, and violence are not unique to Ohio’s charter schools. Disarray and destruction in the charter school sector is mostly a question of degree, that is, of how intense such chaos and anarchy are. In cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago, and Washington DC, the charter school sector is plagued by turmoil and instability.

This chaos, anarchy, and violence will not disappear until the ideologies of individualism, consumerism, and competition are banished from a public responsibility like education. So long as education is treated as a commodity, as nothing more than a business, then the chaos, anarchy, and violence inherent to the “free market” will make itself felt ruthlessly. Nonprofit and for-profit charter schools will continue to open and close frequently, often unpredictably, and thousands of families will continue to feel violated, angry, and stressed. These parents, in turn, will no doubt share their negative charter school experiences with others, which in turn will discourage others from believing the intense hype surrounding privately-operated charter schools and dissuade them from enrolling their children in charter schools.

Add to this the fact that charter schools continually experience high student, teacher, and principal turnover rates and you have very unstable conditions in a sector that barely makes up seven percent of all schools in the country.

In these and other ways charter schools are their own worst enemy. Charter school promoters are too anticonscious and greedy to realize that the constant churn and upheaval in the charter school sector is not a virtue, but a disaster for education, society, the economy, and the national interest. Charter school promoters want people to suspend thinking and investigation and simply believe that a major social responsibility like education, which is germane to the future of society, should be run on the basis of “free market” principles—the same principles that ensure carnage and ruin every hour in the business world.

Are Charter Schools Public Schools?

Charter school advocates have always desperately sought to convince themselves and the public that privately-run nonprofit and for-profit charter schools that operate like businesses are actually public and similar in many ways to public schools.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Charter schools are not public schools.

In reality, privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools differ in many profound ways from public schools that have been educating 90 percent of America’s youth for more than a century.

Below is an abbreviated list of the many ways in which privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools differ significantly from public schools.

  1. Charter schools are exempt from dozens, even hundreds, of state and local laws, rules, regulations, policies, and agreements that apply to all public schools.
  2. At least 90% of charter schools have no teacher unions—the opposite of public schools.
  3. Some charter school owners-operators openly and publicly insist that charter schools are private entities.

  1. Unlike public schools, charter schools are not governed by a publicly elected school board, but by a self-selecting, corporate-style board of trustees.
  2. Many charter schools are not subject to audits, at least not in the same way as public schools.
  3. Many charter schools do not uphold open-meeting laws; they dodge many such public requirements.
  4. Many charter schools do not provide the same services as public schools, e.g., transportation, nurses, food, sports, education services, etc.
  5. Thousands of charter schools are directly and/or indirectly owned, operated, or managed by private, for-profit entities.
  6. Many, if not most, charter schools regularly use discriminatory student enrollment practices. Students with disabilities and English Language Learners in particular are usually under-represented in charter schools. So are homeless students and other students.

  1. In some states charter schools are permitted to hire teachers with no license or certification; in other states charter schools can hire a percentage of teachers with no license or certification.
  2. Many charter schools entail loss of voter voice (e.g., through the creation of non-profits that can claim public funds without voter approval).
  3. Unlike public schools, charter schools cannot levy taxes and the public cannot vote on school budgets.
  4. Unlike public schools, charter schools rest on the ideologies of competition, consumerism, and individualism, as well as the chaos, anarchy, and uncertainty of the “free market.” Winning and losing are considered healthy and normal. More than 3,000 charter schools have closed in 28 years, leaving thousands of families dislocated, angry, and disillusioned.
  5. In 2016, the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency, determined that charter schools are private entities.
  6. The Supreme Court in the state of Washington ruled in 2015 that charter schools are not public schools and cannot receive public funds because they are not governed by publicly elected officials.

  1. Joining other courts, in 2009 and 2010 the Court of Appeals of New York, in two separate cases, ruled that charter schools are not public entities and/or not subject to the same practices and laws as public schools.

NY CHARTER SCHOOL v. DiNAPOLI. 13 N.Y.3d 120 (2009). Court of Appeals of New York.

CHARTER SCHOOL v. Smith. 15 N.Y. 3rd 403 (2010).  Court of Appeals of New York.

    1. The non-profit and/or for-profit status of charter schools positions them outside the public sphere (and in the so-called “Third Sector”).
    2. Charter schools rely more heavily on charity and philanthropic aid than public schools.
    3. Unlike public schools, and much like a business, charter schools often spend large sums of money on marketing & advertising their deregulated schools to parents.
    4. Charter means contract. Charter schools are contract Performance contracts are at the heart of charter schools. Contract is the quintessential market category. Contracts make commerce possible. Contract law is part of private law, not public law. Charter schools are legally classified as nonprofits or for-profits. Unlike public schools, they are not political subdivisions of the state. In some places, like New York State, charter schools are not considered political subdivisions of the state. Unlike public schools, charter schools are not state agencies.

  1. Many state constitutions state that public education cannot be operated by or serve sectarian or private interests; nor can public funds flow to them.
  2. Last, but not least, an entity does not become public just because it is labeled public or repeatedly called public. Nor does something become public just because it receives public funds. And being “tuition-free” does not automatically make an entity public either. Being public in the modern sense of the word requires much more.

Many other differences between public schools and charter schools could be listed. The point is that charter school advocates remain as desperate as ever to portray charter schools as public schools so as to have a modicum of legitimacy and in order to seize extremely enormous amounts of funds and property from public schools.

Stopping privatization in all its forms is a key responsibility confronting the public at this time.

• This title is a slight variation of the title of an article “There’s No Such Thing as a “Public Charter School” written by Ann Berlak in 2016. Berlak is an author and has worked as a teacher and teacher educator.