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July 15, 2011 9:33 AM   Subscribe

"It signals what’s wrong with the so-called charter school community. Somebody who doesn’t deserve a charter gets a charter. Somebody who doesn’t deserve a building gets a building. And then somebody who doesn’t care about the communities can turn their head and walk away." Venture capitalist and blended learning 'evangelist' Tom Vander Ark committed to opening several charter schools in New York City and Newark, NJ, stringed the Department of Education along until the last possible moment, and then walked away (NYT link).
posted by Nomyte (48 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Could be worse. What if he'd started a school?
posted by DU at 9:34 AM on July 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Amateur Hour.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 AM on July 15, 2011


I'm always so torn about the subject of charter schools. In Toledo, we have a few of them that have thrived and filled in gaps that weren't being provided by the local school system. However, we've had many more that open, go on academic probation and then close. Vander Ark is an asshole for this, but I have to agree with DU that it might be all for the better that he didn't get to run any schools.

I can't get back into the article to verify, but I'm assuming the charters were for-profit? Is there a difference between for-profit and not-for-profit charters that makes this sort of thing more likely for the former? We've only got non-profits here so I'm not aware of how the rules are different for the two.
posted by charred husk at 9:53 AM on July 15, 2011


Honest but possibly dumb question: why do we fund our public schools through local property taxes and not uniformly across the board? Seems like a pretty obvious recipe for substandard schools in poor areas to me.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


I wish the NYT did a bit of journalistic investigation and figured out why Vander Ark walked away.

Was he in over his head? Did he feel he was walking into a financial disaster? Were there governmental entities that were dragging their feet?

More importantly, if you're going to start a multi-million dollar venture, you need pieces of signed papers called contract documents. A signed agreement that let him walk away at the last minute without incurring significant financial penalties is ridiculous, and whoever gave Vander Ark free reign was negligent and got what they deserved.
posted by lemuring at 10:06 AM on July 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Honest but possibly dumb question: why do we fund our public schools through local property taxes and not uniformly across the board? Seems like a pretty obvious recipe for substandard schools in poor areas to me.

What are you some kind of commie or something!? Not letting someone's wealth effect their education is fascism!
posted by fuq at 10:07 AM on July 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Some school systems get funding from state governments.

More uniform funding seems like a good idea, but, man, you're going to have people running around with pitchforks and torches if you tell them that even though they moved to SwankyTown because of the school system, their property taxes are going to help fund UrbanVille schools.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:08 AM on July 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


...why do we fund our public schools through local property taxes and not uniformly across the board?

Because any politician explaining to upper-middle-class parents that he or she will be personally responsible for their lowering of children's standard of schooling for any reason at all will be voted the right thell out come election time
posted by griphus at 10:09 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Senor Cardgage: "Honest but possibly dumb question: why do we fund our public schools through local property taxes and not uniformly across the board? Seems like a pretty obvious recipe for substandard schools in poor areas to me"

Its political weakness. Here in Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that funding by property taxes was unconstitutional but no one has done anything about it yet. That's because the obvious answer - replacing with an income tax - would be seen as a TAX INCREASE!!11!!OMG!!

Back in my hometown, they got eliminated funding by property tax and just went with a straight out income tax. No more levies, no more being unconstitutional. So far it has worked out fantastically.
posted by charred husk at 10:09 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Unless of course they plan to eliminate AP Classes, arts funding or IB Programs, because those are elitist ivory-tower liberal institutions that poison their children against God and Government.)
posted by griphus at 10:10 AM on July 15, 2011


I went to a charter school here in Michigan for three years just before high school—this was when it first opened up. Over the course of those years, we went from required "extra" classes, like phys. ed., art, and band or choir, to the option to choose one, to their eventual removal.

I still drive past the building occasionally—they rent it out for use as a church on weekends.
posted by mean cheez at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2011


More importantly, if you're going to start a multi-million dollar venture, you need pieces of signed papers called contract documents. A signed agreement that let him walk away at the last minute without incurring significant financial penalties is ridiculous, and whoever gave Vander Ark free reign was negligent and got what they deserved.

As far as I understand it, the individual schools are set up as "clients" of the organization that sets up and manages them — like Vander Ark's OpenEd. So in the end it's the school that's on the hook, and it remains up to the local school board to decide whether to allow the school to operate, as well as cleaning up the mess if the school fails.
posted by Nomyte at 10:19 AM on July 15, 2011


Well, he committed, right? So he's on the hook for a substantial amount, right?
posted by Eideteker at 10:22 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


My first instinct about charter schools is to say that they should be illegal -- they divert potential resources from public schools, which should be flooded with cash and given tools to improve themselves, and should be the only game in town. But I don't know a lot about the issue, so I might be way off base. I just think that we've really lost sight of how absolutely critical education is, or at least, whatever regard the average american had for it has decreased in recent years; this, combined with the eternally infuriating anti-federalist position that millions of bumpkins often take and the perverse free-market bullshit that mildly clever businesspeople promulgate to separate truly dumb individuals from their rights, resources, and well-being, results in an education system which would be embarrassing is Americans had any fucking shame left.
posted by clockzero at 10:25 AM on July 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


embarrassing IF, rather
posted by clockzero at 10:26 AM on July 15, 2011


they divert potential resources from public schools, which should be flooded with cash and given tools to improve themselves, and should be the only game in town.


While I'm not thrilled about every example of charter school that exists, I do appreciate that it's one of the options out there. Education reform isn't some abstract political football to kick around. There are real kids in all these schools, and their lives are changed in very real ways by the quality of their education. Charter schools aren't a magic potion to fix the school system, but if their existence creates more discussion about the school system(s), and motivates people to get involved and try to help, that's a good thing.
posted by dubold at 10:40 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


clockzero: You forgot the part where people who either have no kids or have already raised theirs past school age act like complete dicks and raise holy hell whenever a millage increase comes up, as if having a better educated populace doesn't help anyone but those currently in school. Other than that, I agree with you 100%.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:42 AM on July 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is interestingly timely.

For the past three years, my brother has worked as a teacher for a charter school. He's been very happy there; he felt he was well-supported by the administration, and he loved the freedom to teach kids what he felt was worth teaching. This was in Chicago, and he was lucky enough to be teaching kids from varied backgrounds Latin, which was very rewarding for him (and for them, I believe).

In Illinois, as in many places, there's some controversy surrounding charter schools, particularly among public school teachers, who are frequently unionized and who often feel (as clockzero says) that charter schools are just sapping funds from public schools. But my brother argued against this; he felt there was room for lots of kinds of schools, and, he said, unions aren't necessary if you have a principle you can trust and an administration that supports its teachers.

This year, his wife graduated and started looking for a job in a field where jobs are scarce. They'd already asked him to return to teach, but my brother, being a decent guy, talked to his principal, saying he'd almost certainly want to return, but saying he was looking at some other options. The principal told him that was fine, and promised to come to him before interviewing anybody else and see where he was on that.

A few weeks later – about a month ago – my brother went to his principal and said: "I've looked at the options, and I'd really like to work here next year; so I will be taking the position you offered."

The principal said: "oh, we've already hired somebody else."

Needless to say: my brother feels betrayed. Very much so. Being lied to, and having your job hired out from under you, isn't fun. And it's changed his outlook on unions and public schools entirely. This is the kind of thing unions prevent; that's why unions make schools better. And schools ought to be public institutions, not private enterprises, because these things have a lot to do with the public interest and need to be talked about in the community.
posted by koeselitz at 10:42 AM on July 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


Charter schools are not a solution to an education problem. They're a solution of the problem of getting government money into corporate hands.
posted by Legomancer at 10:48 AM on July 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


dubold:

Charter schools aren't a magic potion to fix the school system, but if their existence creates more discussion about the school system(s), and motivates people to get involved and try to help, that's a good thing.

I really get what you're saying, and I totally agree with the idea that we should explore ways to innovate in education and get people involved. Unfortunately, I think that while charter schools may do those things to some degree, the cost-to-benefit ration is exceedingly low because those are tertiary concerns at best for charters.

caution live frogs:

You forgot the part where people who either have no kids or have already raised theirs past school age act like complete dicks and raise holy hell whenever a millage increase comes up, as if having a better educated populace doesn't help anyone but those currently in school.

Yeah, I hear you on that. I think it's incredibly disheartening, as an American who kinda likes his country, specifically its formal commitment to laudable principles but more importantly ALL of my fellow citizens, that some people have this childishly selfish and short-sighted political orientation.

Also, and sorry to rant a bit here, but it drives me NUTS when I hear people profess embarrassingly sycophantic adulation for America The Abstraction and heartless scorn for Actual Americans.
posted by clockzero at 10:53 AM on July 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the advantages of using property taxes to fund education is that in contrast to other revenue sources property taxes are relatively stable. In contrast sales tax, which is one of the other primary sources of state and local revenues is more vulnerable to economic instability. Further sales taxes are quite regressive themselves.

Income taxes could be used but honestly a lot of states don't even have state income taxes now, establishing those plus changing school funding from a property tax based system to an income tax funded system would be quite complicated.

In addition most school districts aren't really set up to do anything other than property tax based funding + intergovernmental transfers. Allowing them to levy sales tax would be an administrative nightmare and they certainly couldn't do income taxes. This would force school districts to rely exclusively on state and federal intergovernmental transfers. Seeing how most state legislatures work this seems like a bad idea.

The other major issue is the aspect of local control, people in the US tend to like local control whenever possible and as such tend to prefer system that can be supported by local funding. Further, because good schools tend to increase property values it benefits residents of wealthier school districts to have the majority of their property tax monies to go to local schools rather than be used to support less fortunate schools.

Of course gross disparities are seen as a negative so we often see some form of property tax sharing system in many states.
posted by vuron at 10:55 AM on July 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


America IS Americans. ALL of us. There's nothing else worth defending, fighting for, or celebrating.
posted by clockzero at 10:55 AM on July 15, 2011


Regarding whether charter schools should be allowed:

My son goes to a charter school specifically for autistic children. He goes there because the services that the local public school district provides for autistic children are... less than ideal. Every single employee at my son's charter school is trained on how to work with autistic children; the administrative assistant working the front desk, all of the teachers and assistants, the administrators, *everyone*. Since my son has been at that school we have seen continued improvement, and he has gotten a level of therapy and instruction that he never would have gotten from the public schools in a million years. We could not be happier with his placement.

A few years ago the local paper ran a feature series on charter schools. For five consecutive days it was pretty much nothing but how terrible charter schools are compared to public schools, with horror story after horror story. Then they ran a sidebar on five charter schools that actually worked, that outperformed their public counterparts, and that were financially sound. My son's school was at the top of that list.

My point is: charter schools can be excellent alternatives that meet the needs of their target population, while working as a compliment to public schools. For any given charter school to do that, they need to be run by people who actually know what they are doing both educationally and financially, and who truly are dedicated to that purpose. I gather that most charter schools are not run by people like that. They are either run by very well-meaning people who lack the necessary skills, or are run by opportunists out to make a buck. That's a real shame.
posted by Lokheed at 10:56 AM on July 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I work with a start-up charter school right now.

Conventional wisdom is that there are a lot of charter proponents who think that charter schools are just the bees knees, uniformly, but that they're to be taken with many grains of salt. Because some of the criticisms of charter schools - that they siphon off a district's smartest students and therefor have "superior academic performance" are accurate.

However, while charter schools have not had considerable improvement on district schools across the board (charter v. district, not charter v. public. A charter school IS a public school, it's just not a district school), charter schools in inner-city districts have had pretty significant improvement over district schools. There are a lot of reasons for this, but often it comes down to charters having more flexibility to attract and retain high-quality educators when, in poor and minority neighborhoods, district schools often have high turnover rates, low levels of educator experience, and comparatively high rates of uncredentialed teachers teaching.

More interesting than charter schools, though, is specific educational models. Some are implementing well-researched, well-documented, successful education programs. Best practices, if you will. THAT is more interesting, to me, than just the notion of whether or not a private entity is receiving public money to run a school.
posted by entropone at 11:01 AM on July 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz:

My fiance has been teaching at a charter school for two years now. It is one of the ones that have been successful in Toledo. She loves the job and she loves the school - she wouldn't have anything like the opportunities she has had in the public schools. Yet at the same time she knows she could be making $10k more a year at one of the public schools and I always have the fear in the back of my head that she could be let go at any time for any reason with no recourse. And now, ten years after the fact, the local school system is talking about creating its own magnet school for the arts...

The thing is, if that public magnet school had existed ten years ago, there would never have been a need for the charter she works at. The cafeteria is called the "Flying Pig" because when the school was proposed, a school board member scoffed that pigs would fly before an art school succeeded in Toledo. There's no clean solution to this - school boards can be stupid and/or shortsighted and charter success is iffy at best - as I mentioned before many of them have failed miserably here. Charters are not a magic bullet but they can serve an important role when the local school system can't or won't fill needs that are present.
posted by charred husk at 11:04 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


More interesting than charter schools, though, is specific educational models. Some are implementing well-researched, well-documented, successful education programs. Best practices, if you will. THAT is more interesting, to me, than just the notion of whether or not a private entity is receiving public money to run a school.

While I personally am equally interested in the question of private entities receiving public monies, I think this is an absolutely critical point overall. However; what kind of models are these? Are they centered on in-classroom instruction, or are we talking about overall paradigms of scholastic integration with a community? Because my impression has been that ostensibly external factors (e.g., parent participation) have a significant role in educational outcomes.
posted by clockzero at 11:06 AM on July 15, 2011


In Ontario, where I teach, all schools receive the same amount of funding per student. However schools can increase funding through fund raisers. It's not uncommon for a school in a wealthy neighborhood to raise over a million dollars a year, which mostly goes towards equipment such as computers etc. So even with equal per capita funding it's not impossible to break the spirit of the law.
posted by trigger at 11:08 AM on July 15, 2011


The problem with public schools is that they aren't making anybody rich.

Charter schools are meant to solve that problem.
posted by jamjam at 11:18 AM on July 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Charter schools are meant to solve that problem.


...as evidenced by the number that are run by nonprofit organizations?
posted by entropone at 11:21 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Legomancer: "Charter schools are not a solution to an education problem. They're a solution of the problem of getting government money into corporate hands"

jamjam: "The problem with public schools is that they aren't making anybody rich.
Charter schools are meant to solve that problem
"

... and we have one half of the public discussion of education in the U.S. The other half (which is not represented on the Blue) would be "Teacher unions are evil!" and "the private sector is more efficient!" No middle ground, no grey area. For fuck's sake.
posted by charred husk at 11:27 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Ontario, where I teach, all schools receive the same amount of funding per student. However schools can increase funding through fund raisers. It's not uncommon for a school in a wealthy neighborhood to raise over a million dollars a year, which mostly goes towards equipment such as computers etc. So even with equal per capita funding it's not impossible to break the spirit of the law.

This is something that's easy to miss, if you're outside the educational community. My wife just did her student teaching in a school in an affluent neighborhood; they had a brand new playground and Smart Boards in every classroom because the parents raised money and paid for it. A school in that same city, with the exact same funding per pupil, wouldn't have those resources.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:43 AM on July 15, 2011


My sister's first teaching job was at a charter school, which pretty much sold her on the necessity of teacher's unions from there on out. There's very little accountability for the people running the charter school.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:46 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]



Honest but possibly dumb question: why do we fund our public schools through local property taxes and not uniformly across the board? Seems like a pretty obvious recipe for substandard schools in poor areas to me.


You've answered your own question, my friend. That's a feature of the system, not a bug.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:54 AM on July 15, 2011


a lot of states don't even have state income taxes nowa lot of states don't even have state income taxes now

Not beefing with the points you make but the above isn't true at all.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:16 PM on July 15, 2011


In case you don't believe me. Believe the Man.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:17 PM on July 15, 2011


In my small city, the charter school is the lowest performing school, and one of the public elementary schools is the highest performing school in the entire state. Why anyone would choose to send their child to the charter here in town when they could send them to Clifford just stumps me. But parents do, somehow figuring that because it's a charter is must somehow be "better".

That being said, as my son turns five and we prepare to have him enter public school in the fall, I'm becoming increasingly nervous about it. I've always been a very strong supporter of the value of public education, but the atmosphere around taxes and budgets here is just so poisonous... Truthfully, if I could afford an extra $15K a year to send him to private school I'd do it in a heartbeat. But, like virtually every other middle class family I can't do it. If our income were lower we would qualify for financial aid from the school, but we don't. If our income were higher, I could just pay for private school (and then feel guilty about that).
posted by anastasiav at 12:22 PM on July 15, 2011


My kids are going to a charter school, just Kindergarten under their belt so far, and in addition to the limited, oft-delayed funds coming from the state, the parents (myself included, although I'm certainly not the largest contributor) fund a significant portion of the school's budget themselves. Perhaps kids who live nearby and use it as an alternative to their local public school, their parents donate a few hundred dollars per year, while the parents with a vested interest in making it the school they want to send their children to, they perhaps fund upwards of $5000-$7000 per child per year (not counting fundraising events.) Which still isn't enough, and still isn't as expensive as many private schools in the area, but the highest-funding parents also tend to be the most involved, so there's that.

You can argue about whether charter schools are good or not, and (as with public schools and private schools) you should really be discussing it at a per-school level if you want to be accurate. All I know is, I pay more -- much more -- to send my kids to their charter school than I would to the local public school, but my own public school experience (at one of the best public schools in the area I grew up) was one of desperate boredom and neglect. I wanted a school I could be more involved in, one where each classroom has a dedicated age-appropriate library they read from every day, instead of one big library that each kid only sees the inside of once a week. A school where PE was a daily occurrance instead of a weekly one, or one that didn't exist at all. One with a music and dance program. But ultimately, one where my kids are engaged and learning.

And hey, they are! They know -- and voluntarily practice -- more math than I knew by 2nd grade, their writing is going very, very well, and -- the most important thing -- they love going to school, something I never experienced.

So at the end of the day: don't argue "charter schools/public schools/private schools are bad, m'kay", look at the schools in your area and work to make sure the best ones are funded so they stay open, and work to make sure the worst ones are attended to so they improve. Unless you have kids, in which case, just do what every other parent does: get them in the best school you can find, throw in all the time and money you can afford, and support your kids' natural desire to learn for as long as they possess it.
posted by davejay at 12:34 PM on July 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I need the edit function. That should read one of the highest performing schools in the entire State.

But, on that topic, the highest rated school in the state is actually in Strong, Maine (pop. 1,259), an impoverished former mill-town.

What is particularly interesting to me is the spread of results in my city. Of 178 elementary schools in the State, our city has 9 elementary schools. Of those 9, we have schools (non charter) ranked in the top ten and in the bottom ten. So money isn't the only answer here.

posted by anastasiav at 12:37 PM on July 15, 2011


A couple basics that are important to lay out in the thread for anybody that's new to charter schools: Charter schools are public schools, open to anyone who applies to them and (depending on the municipality) frequently open to residents of a city or large area instead of just a neighborhood. Charters are tuition free.

The idea of charter schools is based on a fairly straightforward trade off: charters are given greater latitude to change policies around teacher work, curriculum and organization and, in exchange, are held to stricter standards than the traditional publics in their city. There are lots of ways that system can fail: the charter authorizer can be lax in enforcing that accountability element, a charter cannot try as hard to recruit poor kids, etc. The frequency of these problems tends to also vary by city and, in geneal, is a regulatory issue.

Charters get public funding in the form of per-pupil allocations for the students that go there and (sometimes, though hardly always) access to current or former public school buildings. That funding is frequently less than traditional publics get - a 2008 study found charters get on average 61% of what traditional publics get. They frequently supplement that money with foundation funds or private investment, both to close that gap and to offer costlier services like higher teacher pay or extended learning time.

Studies on the effectiveness of charter schools, though wide-ranging and controversial tend to find some charters perform better than publics, some do worse, and many do about the same. What's important to remember here is the accountability lever. Because of the bargain I described above, bad charters can be shut down. When you hear a charter school was "so bad they shut it down", remember that the public school down the street isn't getting shut down no matter how bad it is (in fact, under NCLB, almost always the worst thing that happens is that school supplements its after school tutoring).

It seems that the Vander Ark schools weren't ready and that Vander Ark lost a lot of money for his investors. The good news, though, is that the schools that weren't ready never opened. Vander Ark had a dialogue with the charter board where they saw the school wasn't ready, they delayed opening the school, and Vander Ark discovered he couldn't raise the money necessary to make the school do what he wanted it to do. In other words, the system worked. No kids had to go or ended up going to a school that wouldn't have served them. It's not even clear from the article that Vander Ark gets to keep the school that's in the space from using it this year. In short, Vander Ark may have wasted his own time and left some investors disappointed, but he didn't screw New York City and he certainly didn't screw you.
posted by Apropos of Something at 2:47 PM on July 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


...why do we fund our public schools through local property taxes and not uniformly across the board?

In New Zealand funding is on an inverse scale: schools are assessed for the wealth of the area they're in, given a decile rating, and schools at the bottom of the heap get more funding that those at the top; the reasoning is that parents in a decile 10 area (the richest) will have computers and digital cameras and books at home, and can afford to chip in for fund-raising for a new computer lab or whatever, whereas in a decile 1 school the kids' only chance for exposure to modern technology, reading, and so on will likely be at school.

It's not a perfect system - for example, there can be poor areas in the zone of a decile 9 or 10 school, where parents can't afford to flick the school a little extra every year and don't have gizmos galore at home; decile 4-7 schools are often stuck in an uncomfortable in-between where they don't have either rich parents on tap or lots of extra funding - but it's certainly a great deal better than funding by rates.
posted by rodgerd at 2:51 PM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


charred husk wrote: Its political weakness. Here in Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that funding by property taxes was unconstitutional but no one has done anything about it yet. That's because the obvious answer - replacing with an income tax - would be seen as a TAX INCREASE!!11!!OMG!!

In Arkansas, the system has long been to require each district to have a minimum millage (I believe it was either 25 or 30 mills when I was in school) for property tax. That amount got sent to the state, which then distributed it back to the districts on a per-pupil basis. More affluent districts would then impose a millage higher than the standard, which they got to keep.

A few years back the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that system unconstitutional. The solution was to raise the minimum millage and consolidate some school districts. I'm not quite sure how that evens things out, but it's what they did.

I think that as long as the minimum millage is set appropriately, that system can work just fine. Unfortunately, it doesn't.

Here in Tulsa, the public school system runs several magnet schools, which are widely considered to be most excellent, to the point where parents who have money but lack complete and utter pretentiousness will happily send their kids to a magnet school instead of a private school if the child can get accepted. Private school is a fallback plan.

While I think it's great that TPS runs some excellent schools, I also think that having the magnet schools necessarily reduces the quality of the other schools as their best and brightest are siphoned off. My experience has been that interest in academia, whether inherent to the child or instilled by the parent, rubs off on the other kids if there are enough who are interested in learning.
posted by wierdo at 3:20 PM on July 15, 2011


The best thing about charter schools is that the MF's learn that it ain't so easy after all.
posted by Twang at 8:06 PM on July 15, 2011


No kids had to go or ended up going to a school that wouldn't have served them. It's not even clear from the article that Vander Ark gets to keep the school that's in the space from using it this year. In short, Vander Ark may have wasted his own time and left some investors disappointed, but he didn't screw New York City and he certainly didn't screw you.

If that's the case, why are the NYC educators in the article annoyed? There's a principal who is out of a job, there's all the kids who were planning on going to that school in the fall; where are they going to go now?

clockzero:I really get what you're saying, and I totally agree with the idea that we should explore ways to innovate in education and get people involved. Unfortunately, I think that while charter schools may do those things to some degree, the cost-to-benefit ration is exceedingly low because those are tertiary concerns at best for charters.

Well, innovation, in and of itself, probably shouldn't be the primary concern; I think we're probably in agreement that providing a good education is at the top of the list, and that may or may not involve innovation. Parental involvement is going to be key in any educational situation though.

For clarification: I think that charter schools can be useful as a stepping-stone to improving the educational system. Certainly in their current formulation, they have good and bad points, and are not necessarily an improvement to every community.
posted by dubold at 3:26 AM on July 16, 2011


I asked this quiestion a few months ago and got some really helpful answers on choosing a charter school for my son. mareli's answer about the company running the charter school was especially helpful in our research-but ultimately we decided on going with the charter school after a lengthy discussion with the principal and the director of education for Charter Schools USA.

Our son is entering 3rd grade and has 2 IEP's-one for gifted and one for ADHD. He's been terribly underserved by the public school system and things have gotten progressively worse in our district. The budget has a $97 million shortfall (thanks in part to our new governor, Rick Scott and his budget that borders on abusive) and the public school option (a gifted/talented magnet school) was eliminated.

I'm a huge huge union supporter and liberal so far left that I could claim to be a socialist and it hurts my brain to take him out of public schools-but I have to do what's best for him. His first grade teacher was taken by ambulance from the classroom the 2nd week of school-we weren't given any information about what happened due to privacy issues. For the next 4 weeks he had a succession of different subs, none lasting more than 3 days at a time. Homework, vocabulary words, tests weren't being sent home or graded until a parent that was a former teacher stepped in and took control and the parents basically ran the classroom. This went on until Christmas and we were finally told the teacher had apparently collapsed, ended up with a kidney transplant and couldn't work but
WOULD NOT RETIRE, so due to union rules, her placement couldn't be filled on a full time basis. After Christmas, she came back to co-teach for a week and then finally retired and he had the same teacher for the rest of the year. For the average kid-this would have been hard enough, but for an ADHD kid who finishes all his work in lightning speed and is bored? It was hell.

tl;dr Some charter schools are better than others-they depend on who runs the school and choosing to enroll your child in one depends on many many factors, not the least of which is if your own child will be better served in one rather than in the public school system in your area.
posted by hollygoheavy at 5:28 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


clockzero: You forgot the part where people who either have no kids or have already raised theirs past school age act like complete dicks and raise holy hell whenever a millage increase comes up, as if having a better educated populace doesn't help anyone but those currently in school. Other than that, I agree with you 100%.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:42 AM on July 15 [5 favorites +] [!]


Here's why I raised holy hell when they tried (successfully *) to raise the levy on the public schools in my area: the percentage had been the same since the 1950s. If the schools managed to make it through the baby boom and the following 30 years on the same percentage levy, they don't need any more money now. I mean really, it takes $85 million to barely educate 5400 students?


(* thanks to a heavily orchestrated campaign of cute kids at all the grocery stores looking sad and pathetic and begging people to "not take their future away")
posted by gjc at 6:59 AM on July 16, 2011


Charter schools are not a solution to an education problem. They're a solution of the problem of getting government money into corporate hands.

Well, here in Indiana, it's recently been revealed that the overwhelming number of charter schools getting money from the state (diverted from the already-slashed public school budgets) are...church-run schools.

Oh, and the charter schools, as a group, did no better than the public schools in the latest state testing.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:49 AM on July 16, 2011


However; what kind of models are these? Are they centered on in-classroom instruction, or are we talking about overall paradigms of scholastic integration with a community?

I can't speak to everything that's in the 'educational marketplace,' as it were, but the one that I am familiar with is an instructional method that focuses on exploring real-world issues (involving much engagement with the broader community the school is a part of). It's paired with numerous school structures designed to support this instructional method.
posted by entropone at 7:53 AM on July 16, 2011


dubold: "If that's the case, why are the NYC educators in the article annoyed? There's a principal who is out of a job, there's all the kids who were planning on going to that school in the fall; where are they going to go now?"

The feelings of the adults I'm less concerned about - they know how the system works, and accept the potential risks there. As for the kids ... as I understand (somebody please correct me here), the high school admissions process in NYC usually involves putting your preferred schools in rank order. I'd imagine it's now time fo rhte city to place kids in their second or third choices. Additionally, charters with space will frequently reopen their admissions processes to interested students in cases like these.

All of which isn't to say this doesn't suck a little logistically. It's still better than the alternative of sending kids to a school that's not ready for them.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:10 AM on July 16, 2011


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