Can Deregulated Charter Schools Not Be Deregulated Charter Schools?

Privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have always been a top-down neoliberal economic project.

The main features of neoliberalism, launched at home and abroad in the late 1970s, are privatization, deregulation, and abdication of government responsibility for the well-being of people.

Charter schools meet all three criteria: they are deregulated arrangements that reflect government abandoning responsibility for education by handing it over to the private sector and the “free market,” where chaos, anarchy, and violence prevail. This is why so many millionaires and billionaires have been involved in the charter school sector for decades. For owners of capital, charter schools are a much-needed pay-the-rich scheme in the neoliberal period. Charter schools temporarily protect a section of the rich from the inescapable effects of falling profitability under capitalism.

Charter schools became marketized, privatized, deregulated arrangements decades ago when wealthy pioneers of charter schools consciously sought to deprive traditional public schools of their “exclusive franchise,” their so-called “monopoly,” on education. Neoliberal and privatizers wanted education to be outsourced and conducted on the basis of a performance-based contract, where government still pays for everything but the public is eliminated and wealthy private interests occupy center-stage. The wealthy developers of these contract schools wanted to deprive traditional public schools of all authority over the provision of education, even though public schools have always educated the vast majority of America’s youth.

By making it possible for anyone and everyone to “provide” education using public funds, all sorts of problems have increased and schools and society have been left worse off.

To call for charter schools to be regulated is a bit like calling for water not to be wet. Regulation, which is what the rich and the “free market” abhor, would defeat the neoliberal purpose and rationale for the existence and expansion of privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. Deregulation allows charter schools to be non-transparent, unaccountable, and do as they please, which means delivering poor results while fleecing the public treasury with impunity.

Eliminating charter schools would be far more beneficial to education, society, the economy, and the national interest than trying to rein them in through regulation or “better oversight,” which is not going to happen, let alone in a meaningful way.

So long as privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools exist they will drain massive amounts of much-needed public funds from public schools, while increasing segregation, controversy, and corruption. They will also perpetuate high teacher turnover rates and continue to close at a rate of 150-200 a year, leaving thousands of families angry, stressed, and disillusioned.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.