A report from Education Sector raises questions about the ability of charter schools and charter-management organizations to scale up as dramatically as their supporters might hope.Forget all the controversy surrounding the main author's claims that the report was actually toned down by supporters of school choice....just step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
“The extraordinary demands of educating disadvantaged students to higher standards, the challenges of attracting the talent required to do that work, the burden of finding and financing facilities, and often aggressive opposition from the traditional public education system have made the trifecta of scale, quality, and financial sustainability hard to hit,” concludes the report, “Growing Pains: Scaling Up the Nation’s Best Charter Schools.”
As hard-hitting as the findings seem to be, the report is at the center of a controversy over whether the final text—released by the Washington think tank on Nov. 24—was watered down.
The main author, Education Sector co-founder Thomas Toch, asked to have his name removed from the final product. It “didn’t fully reflect my sense of the current conditions or future prospects for CMOs,” he said in an interview. “Charter schools are an important addition to the public education landscape and the best CMOs have produced great results. ... But the CMO movement has created only a few hundred schools in a decade, and even with more funding it would be difficult for CMOs to expand much faster without compromising the quality of their schools.”
In a perfect world, the charters wouldn't be relied upon as the only means by which public education could be reformed. They were never meant to be the cure for all that ails education.
In fact, many of the problems cited in the EdWeek article are problems that traditional public schools share - all of elementary and secondary education shares those problems, to some extent....but the added burden of a larger chunk of a charter's funding coming from private sources that are drying up in the current economic climate is making for some belt-tightening: ...the report as released last month omits some candid quotes from industry executives about the fragile economics undergirding some charter school networks and about how the credit crisis has affected the ability of charter school networks to raise money, as well as statistics showing the difficulty some CMOs have had in reducing central-office costs.
So the overall neglect of public education has brought us to this.
Even with the stimulus promised to the charters, the real problems are not being addressed. Why did we keep diverting finances for the education of our children to other things? Why did we keep supporting people in government at all levels who did this? Even if the money was going to the schools, but still ending up in the wrong places, why didn't we jump on that kind of thing much sooner and put a stop to it? (yeah, okay, here's one answer to that, locally speaking) Why the hell are too many of us so damned afraid to send our kids to truly integrated schools? Why can't we pay teachers more, no matter where they work, so that they don't have to take a second job? Benefits are not enough. They just aren't when you have to eat and get dressed and have a roof over your head, too.
We keep stumbling. Our children keep paying for it. And I keep beating this long-dead horse to a bloody pulp, as does Ms G.
Why we can't bury the thing and have a rollicking jazz funeral for it is beyond me.