Miserable Bankruptcy of Charter School Cheerleaders

Charter school promoters embraced irrationalism long ago. Their reckless antisocial agenda requires them to do so because what they are promoting has no legitimate basis; it is not consistent with modern requirements.

“Leaders” in the charter school sector have long spoken and acted like free market demagogues, desperate to treat every human responsibility as a commodity, and to make it seem like this is normal, healthy, and desirable.

While privately-operated-owned non-profit and for-profit charter schools have solved no problems over the past 28 years, they have transferred tens of billions of public dollars from the public purse to narrow private interests, causing great harm to education, society, the economy, and the national interest. Privately-operated-owned charter schools have deprived the people, economy, and society of immense wealth produced by workers, while also lowering the level of education.

Charter school advocates know that evidence, logic, and facts are not on their side. They know that they are in an endless uphill battle against those who defend public education and the public interest. They know that they have to work day and night to impose the self-serving claims of owners of capital on society and its institutions. They know that charter schools are a scam and that hundreds of charter schools close regularly and thousands perform poorly. Charter school supporters have even admitted for years that charter schools are not a panacea. But they will not relinquish their “legal right” to use charter schools to enrich themselves at the expense of young people. The drive to maximize profits with impunity is too coercive in the context of a continually failing economy. Charter school advocates will say any incoherent thing to preserve their ability to loot the public purse.

Education is a social responsibility, not a business, commodity, choice, privilege, consumer good, or opportunity for some entrepreneur to make money. Education is not for sale.

Education in a society based on mass industrial production must be public, large-scale, and consciously organized for the use and benefit of all, not set up and run as some law-of-the-jungle swindle. Chaos and anarchy in the education sector is a recipe for disaster, not stable and sustainable development.

Privatized, marketized, deregulated, segregated, deunionized, unaccountable, non-transparent charter schools constantly plagued by waste, fraud, corruption, frequent closures, poor performance on a broad scale, selective enrollment practices, inflated administrator pay, and high student and teacher turnover rates are not the way forward. They are not a meaningful alternative to public schools mandated to fail by the same neoliberal state that created privately-operated charter schools.

Unlike privately-operated-owned non-profit and for-profit charter schools, public schools offer far more services and programs, and accept and serve all students all the time. Public schools are also more accountable, transparent, pay teachers better, provide more security for them, and have lower teacher turnover rates than charter schools. It is also important to recall that charter schools choose parents and students, not the other way around. This is why many different students are continually absent or under-represented in charter schools. In Philadelphia, for example, about 30% of charter schools have no English Language Learners.1 Charter schools are notorious for intensifying segregation, not reducing it.

Charter school advocates are cynical and irresponsible. They do not care about education, students, and parents. Their business-centric outlook gives rise to a debased and counterfeit consciousness that blocks the renewal of education, democracy, and society. Charter school advocates have no conception of what it means that education is a social human responsibility that cannot be left to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.”

People from all walks of life should remain vigilant about the aims, motives, and activities of privatizers, “free market” demagogues, charter school promoters, and their cheerleaders. These retrogressive forces are actively promoting harmful ideas, policies, and arrangements. They do not care about the damage they cause to society, education, the economy, and the national interest. Their antisocial goal is to make as much money as possible at the expense of everyone. Neoliberal disinformation about “choice,” “kids,” “innovation,” “parent power,” and “freedom” should be rejected and replaced by modern definitions that affirm human rights as the starting point for discussion, policies, and arrangements.

  1. Education Law Center, Safeguarding educational equity: Protecting Philadelphia students’ civil rights through charter oversight, February 2019. []
Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.