I’m not a big fan of year-end reviews, especially the many simple lists of events with little or no context. Which makes this year in “phony education reform” very different, and better, than most of the retrospectives I’ve read this season. All focused on the big lie that is charter schools.
In 2014, charter schools, which had always been marketed for a legendary ability to deliver promising new innovations for education, became known primarily for their ability to concoct innovative new scams.
What follows is a long collection of stories of financial waste, fraud, and abuse from charters all over the country. Problems about which the public seems clueless.
Surveys show the public generally doesn’t get what charter schools are and don’t understand whether they are private or public or whether they can charge fees or teach religion. Charter operators themselves have muddled their image by arguing successfully in numerous confrontations with legal authorities that “they are exempt from rules that govern traditional public schools, ranging from labor laws to constitutional protections for students.”
Charter operators want to take the public money while making their own rules about how it can be spent. With quality student learning being a lower priority and the return on investment.
Unfortunately, growth in the “business” of education, along with the greed and deception, will likely continue into 2015.
Forecasts about what 2015 will bring to the education landscape frequently foresee more charter schools as charter-friendly lawmakers continue to act witlessly to proliferate these schools. But make no mistake, the charter school scandals of 2014 forever altered the narrative about what these institutions really bring to the populace.
It would be nice if all the 2014 scandals, not to mention multiple studies showing kids in charters do no better than their peers in the public schools, would alter the narrative. But in the current political climate, I’m not hopeful.
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