Join Growing Resistance to Charter Schools

It has taken some time, but finally, even though they have been pillaged for decades by privately-operated unaccountable charter schools, more public school districts across the country are fighting back with greater vigor against nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. Gone are the days of silent toleration and looking the other way while charter schools wreak havoc on public education.

It is affirming and refreshing to see more public school districts filing lawsuits, passing resolutions, producing exposés, and taking other actions against privately-operated charter schools to stop the “legal” theft of public funds and property by these non-transparent contract schools that typically under-enroll certain student populations and have high teacher turnover rates.

While segregated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have rapidly enriched many owners of capital and their cheerleaders, they have not solved any major problems. The increase in privately-operated charter schools nationwide has deepened the crisis in education and society. It has made things qualitatively worse.

Nearly 30 years after they came into being, there is no compelling evidence that charter schools do better than under-funded, over-tested, and relentlessly scapegoated-and-shamed public schools confronted with immense tasks and responsibilities.

The antisocial transfer of colossal sums of public money and property from public schools to wealthy charter school owners-operators has left numerous public schools and communities in many states devastated, unable to educate many students, particularly poor and low-income minority students. The situation has become so tragic, absurd, and nauseating in some places that even charter schools are cannibalizing each other.

This was bound to happen with the rise of privatized, marketized, corporatized “schools” promoted heavily by millionaires and billionaires eagerly searching for ways to maximize profits as fast as possible.

In this context, public school board members do not need to ride the fence when opposing charter schools and defending public schools. They do not need to make equivocating statements like: “I love charter schools, charter schools are awesome, but charter schools are destroying our public school district and we must act to stop the damage caused by charter schools.”

It is neither necessary nor helpful to frame matters in this way; it just reinforces confusion. It is more helpful, honest, and straightforward to openly state that charter schools are a big problem, that charter schools are not public schools, that thousands of charter schools perform poorly, and that charter schools must have no access to public funds and property.

Everyone should support the struggles of public school boards across the country against the privatization of education, which inevitably leads to more corruption, less democracy, worse results, greater chaos, higher costs, reduced accountability, and inferior service.

There are currently about 7,000 charter schools in the U.S., but more than 3,000 privately-operated charter schools have closed in under three decades, leaving thousands of families dislocated, angry, and stressed. This is destructive, avoidable, and unnecessary.

More parents, students, teachers, principals, teacher educators, school boards, education associations, and others are slowly but surely discovering that the gap between charter school hype and charter school realities remains enormous.

More than ever, society needs fully-funded, locally-controlled, integrated, world-class public schools in every neighborhood, not pay-the-rich schemes like charter schools that are constantly mired in endless scandals.

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