Wednesday, December 29, 2004

An Editorial Attack On Charter Schools 

It is easy to be angry with what Amy Stuart Wells has written today in the Washington Post regarding the failure of charter schools. But I am not. The reason that I am able to sit calmly behind my desk is probably because a lot of what she has to say is true. For example:

Carrying out market-based school reform on the cheap requires people with the experience to educate children, the business acumen to run an autonomous institution, the political connections to raise the private funds needed to keep the school afloat, and the ability to forsake their personal life to work six or seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day. It turns out that there are a limited number of people who can or will do charter school reform well. Thus, most charters schools hire younger, less experienced teachers and have high rates of teacher and administrator burnout and turnover.

Much of the information contained in her article I have talked about before. And some good may come out of this. When I sit at board of directors meetings (both at Chavez and WEDJ) and I talk of us having to be particularly thoughtful about our actions because we are representing a movement, what I get back are blank stares. All of us who advocate for an educational marketplace need to be mindful that public policy in this country will be impacted by the way we implement school choice and the outcomes that we achieve. This is so important that I beg the many people in this country who care deeply about our youth and the ability of parents to be the true customer when it comes to who educates their children to stop talking about it and get involved. Go into the schools and volunteer. Become a tutor. Join a board of directors. Give money and ask others to give. Once you do you will find that Ms. Wells did get one thing absolutely wrong. The market is the only mechanism for fixing what ails public education.

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