David Osborne Keeps Casually Peddling Worn-Out Charter School Disinformation

David Osborne is a well-funded neoliberal demagogue who has authored several books advocating the elimination of the public sphere and public interest. He has long championed the narrow private interests of major owners of capital.

Osborne has spent much of his life openly attacking the public sector and pushing for its privatization (“reinvention” and “innovation”) as fast as possible. This includes aggressively promoting school privatization through the creation of poor-performing pay-the-rich schemes like charter schools.

In a November 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal,  [1] Osborne nonchalantly repeats one of the biggest falsehoods about charter schools by claiming that they are public schools. My September 7, 2019 article, Are Charter Schools Public Schools?  [2], highlights more than 20 ways charter schools differ profoundly from public schools.

A main reason neoliberals, corporate school reformers, and charter school promoters repeatedly assert that charter schools are public schools is so as to prevent the public from recognizing that they are actually privatized arrangements. Another related reason is so that they can siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools, which are themselves often under-funded, over-tested, and constantly vilified by neoliberals and their state. If a school is supposedly “public,” then it follows that it should get public money. This public money would disappear if charter schools, which are segregated and deregulated, were treated as the privatized arrangements they have always been. Neoliberals are not about to let that happen, especially in the context of a continually failing economy that is causing major owners of capital to panic in their frenzy to maximize profit as fast as possible.

In the rest of the article Osborne spends a lot of time attacking teachers unions and mischaracterizing the negative financial impact of privately-operated charter schools on public schools.

Osborne also conveniently ignores the fact that thousands of non-profit and for-profit charter schools perform poorly, exclude many students, have high teacher turnover rates, close frequently, are run by unelected individuals, over-pay administrators, spend a lot on advertising, and are rife with fraud, waste, and corruption. Osborne is silent on these and many other problems with unaccountable charter schools.

To date, crisis-prone charter schools have not solved a single problem in America, they have just produced more problems. Privately-operated charter schools have not reduced the “achievement gap,” segregation, unaccountability, or corruption. It is no surprise that more than 95% of charter schools are not started or operated by teachers.

Neoliberals do not think it is a problem for everything in society to operate on the basis of the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the so-called “free market.” They want everything to operate according to the law of the jungle. For them, parents and students are consumers and education is a business.

The public rejects this outlook with all the contempt it deserves. Public education must be free of privatization and the alien claims of owners of capital if society, education, the economy, and the national interest are to advance.

[1]  Osborne, D. The big lie about charter schools, Wall Street Journal, November 19, 2019.
[2]  Tell, S.  Are charter schools public schools? Dissident Voice, September  7, 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.