Defensive Charter School Advocates

Charter schools are privatized arrangements imposed on society by the rich and their retinue.

There is nothing public about charter schools. Nonprofit and for-profit charter schools lack most of the features of public schools and typically operate as deregulated businesses.

Calling a charter school public is mainly for the self-serving purpose of illegitimately funneling vast sums of public money from public schools to wealthy private interests who own-operate nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. Charter schools are essentially pay-the-rich schemes masquerading as “innovations” that “save public education” and “give parents choices.”

Charter school owners-operators would not be able to fleece public money from public schools if they were openly recognized as the privatized arrangements that they are. Most people understand that public money belongs solely to the public, not private interests. They understand that public wealth must be used only for public purposes and that private interests have no right to decide how to use public money.

Fear of losing billions of dollars in public wealth—money that charter schools have no valid claim to—easily and quickly angers profit-obsessed charter school promoters, especially in the context of a continually failing economy and a falling rate of profit for major owners of capital. Even the loss of a tiny fraction of this public money is enough to trigger a vicious reaction by the advocates of segregated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. The overriding aim of maximizing profits as fast as possible, no matter how damaging to education, society, and the economy, naturally compels charter school advocates and their wealthy backers to be belligerent, self-righteous, and irrational in protecting their narrow financial interests. They have no regard for the social and natural environment.

At a press conference on July 16, 2019 Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania did what few, if any, governors have done: he publicly called charter schools “private” and criticized them on several counts. Further infuriating charter school advocates, the governor also publicly defended public schools.

In an August 1, 2019 letter to the governor, Ana Meyers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, the state’s largest organization representing privately-operated charter schools, expressed “grave concerns” with the governor’s legitimate criticism of the privatization of public education. Meyers lashed out at Governor Wolf, saying: “I am shocked that you and your staff are unaware that none of Pennsylvania’s charter schools [brick-and-mortar or cyber] are private or for-profit institutions.” Meyers righteously tells Governor Wolf: “I would have thought that a governor who has championed public education like you have over the past four-plus years would know better. I believe that you would have a much better understanding of how charter schools operate in Pennsylvania if you took the time to visit a few of them.”

Meyers angrily repeated other worn-out assertions, diversions, and distortions that are supposed to convince the gullible that charter schools are public in nature. In this regard, a key ideological device used repeatedly by charter school advocates is to create the impression that just because something is enshrined in law, it is therefore automatically right, just, ethical, principled, and acceptable. A closely related ideological device is to treat ideas totally in the abstract so as to divert attention from the actual concrete reality of things.

When a scam as entrenched and lucrative as charter schools is at stake, the beneficiaries of such antisocial arrangements will speak and act in belligerent, irrational, and brazen ways. Unlimited greed has always had a negative toll on society.

The public must not be scathed by such desperate and predictable antics. They are a sign of weakness, not strength. The public should stay the course and keep developing new creative ways to oppose charter schools and defend public education and democracy to ensure a bright future for all.

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