Every Charter School Must Be Closed Down – Every. Single. One.

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The problem with charter schools isn’t that they have been implemented badly.


Nor is it that some are for-profit and others are not.


The problem is the concept, itself.


Put simply: charter schools are a bad idea. They always were a bad idea. And it is high time we put an end to them.


I am overjoyed that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are starting to hear the criticisms leveled against the charter school industry in the face of the naked greed and bias of the Trump administration and its high priestess of privatization, Betsy DeVos. However, I am also disappointed in the lack of courage displayed by many of these same lawmakers when proposing solutions.


Charter schools enroll only 6 percent of students nationwide yet they gobble up billions of dollars in funding. In my home state of Pennsylvania, they cost Commonwealth taxpayers more than $1.8 billion a year and take more than 25 percent of the state’s basic education funding. That’s for merely 180 schools with 135,000 students!


Charter schools are privately run but publicly financed. They are what happens when the public abrogates its responsibility to run a school and signs that right away (in a charter agreement) with another entity, usually a business or corporation.
As such, these schools are not held to the same standards as authentic public schools. Unlike your neighborhood school, charters are not required to be run by elected boards, to have public meetings, to have open records, or to spend all their money in the service of their students. Nor do they have to provide the same standard of services for students – even children with special needs. Nor do they have to accept all students within their coverage area who enroll. And that’s to say nothing of how they increase racial segregation, are susceptible to fraud and malfeasance, often produce much worse academic results, close without notice, hire many uncertified teachers, trample workers rights and destabilize the authentic neighborhood public schools.


These are not problems that can be solved by fiddling around the edges.



We cannot simply constrain them from stealing AS MUCH from authentic public schools and consider it a victory.


We need to address the issue head on – and that issue is the very concept of charter schools.


Why would the public give up its schools to a private entity? Why allow someone else to take our money and do whatever they want with it behind closed doors? Why allow anyone to give our children less of an education than we’re already providing at our own schools?


We must end this failed experiment. Nothing less will do. It will only provide more breathing room so  that this unjust situation can drag on for another generation.


In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed sweeping reforms via executive order that would make real progress toward holding charter schools accountable. He has asked that the state senate and house take the next step with legislation to finish the job.


Just this past week, Wolf visited Twin Rivers Elementary School in McKeesport along with state Senator Jim Brewster and state Reps Austin Davis and Jake Wheatley to listen to resident and teachers’ concerns and propose solutions.


Such a move is unprecedented and represents a seismic shift in the political landscape. However, I am concerned that lawmakers are too timid to fix the real problem here.


No one has the bravery to come out and say what I’ve said here.


Consider this statement from Brewster, my state Senator:


I have legislation to address some of these issues, but it’s not an indictment on charter school teachers. It’s not an indictment on the charter school concept. It’s an indictment on the process that was put in place 20 some years ago that has put in a playing field that’s not level. Together I believe if we get the charter school folks to the table we can iron this out, we can fix several things that need to be fixed – the funding formula, the capacity, the cap and those sort of things – and when we do that, then the mission statements of the charter schools and the public schools are the same – educate our children, bring their skill sets out, help them achieve their dreams.”



I am deeply grateful for Brewster’s support and willingness to take on the charter industry. And he is right about many things. But not all of them.


He is right, for example, about the financial impact of charter schools on authentic neighborhood public schools.


At the same meeting, McKeesport superintendent Mark Holtzman said, “Charter schools are depleting our resources with no accountability or without being financially responsible. Taxpayer money is being used to flood the media with commercials and billboards right before the start of school so that they can take our students.”


There are roughly 500 students living in the McKeesport district enrolled in brick-and-mortar charter schools and 100 students enrolled in cyber charters. The district spends about $7 million — or 10% of its budget — on charter school payments, according to Holtzman.


It’s roughly the same at other districts in the Mon-Valley. Steel Valley Schools, where I work as a middle school teacher, has budgeted a $6 million payment to charter schools this year – 16% of our spending plan.


Again, I am extremely grateful that Wolf and other state Democrats recognize this fact and are willing to take measures to make matters more fair. I hope many Republicans will join them in this.


However, fixing the way charters are funded alone will not correct the problem.


Charter schools are a parallel service to authentic public schools. If you’re suggesting we fund them both, you’re asking taxpayers to pay for two complete and separate school systems.


Why should we do that? Why should we waste our money on it? I don’t think the people of Pennsylvania – or any state of the union – have money to spare on a pointless duplication of services.


It is a politically impossible position that has zero justification – especially when you consider all the inequitable practices charter schools are allowed to get away with.


In his executive orders, Wolf proposes putting a stop to some of this.


For example, he wants to require charter schools to stop turning away students based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, intellectual deficits, or other factors. He wants to make charter schools as transparent as authentic public schools. He wants to stop conflicts of interests for charter school board members and operating companies so that they can’t make decisions on behalf of the school that would enrich themselves, their families and/or friends.


These are excellent suggestions and I hope he is able to make them a reality.


However, these “fixes” are all things that authentic public schools already do. They don’t discriminate in enrollment. They are financially accountable and transparent. They aren’t allowed to engage in conflicts of interest.


Why bother making charter schools act like authentic public schools when we already have authentic public schools? That’s like genetically engineering your cat to have a longer snout and say “woof.” Why bother when you already have a dog?


The same could be said about for-profit and non-profit charter schools.


Apologists want to pretend that the former is the “bad” type of charter and the latter is the “good” type.




As Jeff Bryant, an editor at Education Opportunity Network, puts it, this is a “Distinction without a difference.”


These terms only define an organization’s tax status – not whether it is engaged in gathering large sums of money for investors.


With a knowledgeable accountant or hedge fund manager, almost anyone can claim nonprofit status while still enriching yourself. It happens all the time.


For instance, take the use of management companies.


A for-profit charter school can simply cut services to students and pocket the savings as profit.

A nonprofit charter school can do the same thing after engaging in one additional step.

All they have to do is start a “nonprofit” charter school and then hire a for-profit management company to run it. Then the management company can cut services and pocket the profits!



Yet we call such a school “nonprofit.” It’s meaningless.



It doesn’t even matter who owns the for-profit management company. It could even be the same people who own the nonprofit charter school.


The law actually allows you to wear one hat saying you’re nonprofit and then put on a different hat and rake in the cash! The only difference is what hat you’re wearing at the time! You get to claim to be a nonprofit while enjoying all the advantages of being for-profit.


You can even buy things with public tax dollars through your for-profit management company and then if your “nonprofit” school goes bankrupt, you get to keep everything you bought! Or your management company does.


So the public takes all the risk and you reap all the reward. And you’re still called a “nonprofit.”



But let’s not forget real estate shenanigans.



If I own property X, I can sell it to my own charter school and pay myself whatever I want. And I can do the same thing with a nonprofit charter school, I just need to sell it to my for-profit management company which will still buy my property for whatever I decide to pay myself.



Face it – charter schools are a scam.


They are a failed policy initiative.


It’s time they were ended.


But don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we simply throw away the people who work there or the students who are enrolled there.


We need to look at each charter on a case-by-case basis and decide how best to transition them to an authentic public school system.


In some cases, it may make sense to rehabilitate charters into fully public schools with all the transparency and regulations that means. However, in most cases it will mean eventually closing them.


If there are any charters that actually provide valuable services for students and their families wish to keep children enrolled there, we should allow these students to finish their academic careers there. But let the present classes be the last.


In schools that do not offer better outcomes than the neighborhood public school (i.e. the overwhelming majority) students should be transitioned back to the neighborhood schools.


If there are any charters that do not wish to abide by such changes, they should have the opportunity to become what they already are except in name – private schools. The only difference is that taxpayers will no longer take up the tab.


And when it comes to charter school teachers, they should not be punished for having worked in the industry. In fact, we should find ways to bring them into the authentic public schools.


Our public schools need more teachers. Charter teachers who are fully certified should be given first chance to fill some of those vacancies. And charter teachers who are not certified should be given the opportunity to go back to school and complete their education degrees.


Any sane solution to the charter school mess would include these measures with the ultimate goal of ending school privatization in all its forms financed at public expense.


We don’t want privatized prisons. We don’t want privatized mercenary armies like Blackwater. We don’t want privatized schools.


Tax dollars should go to our authentic neighborhood public schools so that we can make them even better than they already are.


Our students deserve the best we can give them – and we can’t give them the best when we’re needlessly paying for two separate school systems and passing legislation with more of an eye on private investors than the welfare of the next generation.


It is my sincere hope that this push for real charter school reform becomes an effort to solve this problem once and for all.


Are we brave enough to do it?



Do we have the courage and conviction to take that on?


Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!


67 thoughts on “Every Charter School Must Be Closed Down – Every. Single. One.

  1. I believe that California was one of the first states with a charter law, and I’ve worked at two charters in Watsonville which truly are authentic public schools, strongly supported by the community, and thriving. Both charters remain part of the public District system for bookkeeping, payroll, internet and web services, bus service, and also strongly support our certificated and classified unions. Each school was chartered in order to address an oppressive curricular restriction from the State: Alianza became a charter to protect our right to teach in both Spanish and English when voters passed an anti-bilingual education bill, and the Watsonville Charter School of the Arts was chartered to create an arts-focused curriculum in the face of testing mandates which were erroneously used to eliminate all but the Retro Basics from the curriculum.


    • I’m glad you had such a positive charter school experience so far from the norm. However, it doesn’t change a thing. Charters are a bad idea because of what they allow to happen. It’s like a dictatorship. You may get a benevolent dictator but that doesn’t change the fact that even the best dictatorships are always inferior to even the worst democracies. If you have regulations that are too oppressive in your state, Change them. Don’t open the door to every charlatan to steal taxpayer money and spend it behind closed doors. Don’t allow schools to be run by appointed bureaucrats and not elected citizens. Don’t let them cut services for students and pocket the difference.


      • The original charter school concept was to create schools within a public school district that had an elected school board.

        But in these original concept charters, the teachers made all the major management and/or curriculum and/or scheduling decisions democratically like I’ve read that all public school teachers in Finland get to do in their schools. Admins were just office managers who got things done after the “teacher, decision-making-democracy decided” what they wanted the admit to do to support them.


    • I taught in a Southern California public school district and that district, with about 1,000 teachers, did have a charter high school, based on the original concept of a charter school, but it was called an Alternative School and the teachers made all the important decisions based on the needs of the children they taught that were all challenged and not making it in the regular high schools in that district. To get into that Alternative High School, the students had to be referred by several of their teachers to be considered before acceptance.


  2. Historically, there are two charter school concepts.

    The Original Charter School concept and the Faux Corporate Charter School concept.

    One operates under the concept that we are here for the children first and we just want to earn enough to survive financially and have a middle-class comfortable life.

    The other one operates under the agenda that we are here for the money first, second, third, and last.

    The original charter concept is where teachers are in charge but thee are there to manage a school that fits the unique needs of students that have been a challenge to teach. This charter school is still in a public school district and must be transparent and abide by the Ed Code of the state it is in. That means the teachers have to meet that state’s requirements for a teacher and cannot go outside the law when teaching.

    The Faux Corporate Charter school concept is where public money funds private schools, also known as corporate charter schools. These corporate charter schools do not have to abide by any Ed Code and do not have to hire teachers that meet the state’s requirements for a teacher. These Faux schools do not have to be transparent. These Faux schools do not have to be overseen by an elected school board made up of local citizens that live in the same community where the schools are located. If these schools fail to teach the children they have but do not serve, it doesn’t matter that they failed.

    Real public charter schools do not have as many administrators and those administrators are not paid as much as Faux administrators

    Faux Corporate Charter Schools are administrator heavy and those admsintors are paid a lot more than real public school administrators.

    Real public school charters that operate inside a real public school district pay their teachers more.

    Faux Corporate Charter Schools pay their teachers a lot less and do not offer retirement plans and all the other benefits that real public school teachers have, because when Greed is God and profits are everything, the CEO and stockholders cheat the workers and treat them like trash paying them poverty wages without benefits.


    • Lloyd, I’ve heard this distinction before but according to freelance journalist Rachel Cohen, it’s more myth than fact: https://democracyjournal.org/arguments/the-untold-history-of-charter-schools/

      She writes: “Today, this story has been weaponized by every side in the endless war over education reform. The Shanker speech, it turns out, is useful no matter where you stand on charter schools.

      Many supporters use it to argue that charters are, ultimately, a progressive and student-friendly idea—but one abandoned by self-interested latter-day union leaders…

      For their part, teacher unions and reform skeptics invoke the same origin story as evidence that they do support school choice and innovation, just teacher-led, unionized, mom-and-pop forms of it. They tell it as a story of an idea stolen and betrayed, drawing a contrast between good charters—those described by Shanker—and what the schools have become today. Supposedly, the creator of charters watched with horror as his idea was “hijacked” by conservatives, profiteers, and privatizers. As described in his biography, Tough Liberal, written by the Century Foundation’s senior fellow Richard Kahlenberg, Shanker “became quite exercised” by state laws written to allow for-profit corporations to enter the charter school sector. Shanker grew worried that charters might actually promote segregation, undermine public education, and be used as tools to destroy unions. By the mid-1990s, Kahlenberg writes, “Albert Shanker largely repudiated a major reform he had helped launch.”


      • The school district where I taught for thirty years had one alternative high school and that school was democratically operated by the teachers who had a lot of freedom from the school board and admin oversight to make curriculum and scheduling decisions to fit the needs of their students.

        This alternative high school was not called a charter school, but, by definition, it was an example of how that alleged original concept was supposed to work. I was invited to transfer to that school and I talked to several of the teachers that worked there, and they verified that was the way the school worked. They all loved teaching there and teacher turnover was next to nothing. Most of the teachers that left, retired from teaching instead of leaving to find another job. Most of the opening came from someone retiring after thirty or forty years of teaching.

        By the time that invitation came my way, I only had a few years left and decided to stay put in the high school I spent the last sixteen of the thirty teaching at.

        That alternative 9th through 12th-grade high school opened in 1980, five years after I started teaching in that school district. The official name for that high school was a “California Model Continuation high school”.

        “At Santana High (Continuation), the total minority enrollment is 98%, and 88% of students are economically disadvantaged. Santana High (Continuation) is 1 of 5 high schools in the Rowland Unified.”

        Here is the link:


        It has been 14 years since I retired, and I have no idea if the No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core Crap, Race to the Top, Corporate Charter School fraud, high-stakes rank-and-punish test era changed that alternative high school for the worse.

        That Era started in 2001 with NCLB, and I retired in 2005. By then NCLB was still gathering steam.


      • The quote I sent you was recent. I don’t think that alternative high school was converted to a magnet high school.

        Santana is still called a “California Model Continuation high school”.

        “Santana High School, long established as a California Model Continuation high school, provides educational options for high school students in Rowland Unified. Students attending Santana are provided the opportunity for credit recovery or acceleration through the use of individualized and personalized instructional methodologies. A high point of the Santana High School program is a focus on student support services. The entire staff works to provide ongoing support to encourage and advance student academic, career and personal/social development.”


        “A magnet program is a program in a public school that usually focuses on a special area of study, such as science, the performing arts, or career education. A magnet school is an entire school with a special focus. These programs and schools are designed to attract students from across a district. Students may choose to attend a magnet school instead of their local school.”



  3. In Arizona our charters are public schools and there are some that aren’t as good as others but that is the same for traditional public schools. We do not discriminate, or curriculum is driven by state requirements. We don’t have am overabundance of money, we are non profit and spend every Penney we can on the education of the students. It is wrong for you to equate them all. If there is an issue in your state, fix it.


    • Peggy, glad to hear you work at one of the few charter schools that aren’t taking advantage of state charter laws. But your school could start to do so at any time – otherwise it wouldn’t need a charter. It would just be a public school. The public cannot be asked to put up with a situation like this that puts their tax dollars and children’s futures in jeopardy. Hopefully when the charter experiment ends – and it will end – your school will be judged valuable and worthy of keeping in the public school system. If it already is a de facto public school, this should not be a problem. You should advocate for your school to lose the “charter” label if for no other reason than to disassociate yourself with the overwhelming majority of charters who cheat children and taxpayers in the name of self interest.


    • Peggy, if the charter schools in Arizona are in the private sector but is funded with public money, they are not real public schools.

      Real public schools belong to the public that pays for them and does not belong to a private non-profit company in the private sector that is almost always owned and serviced/managed by a for-profit company.

      The land real public schools sit on belongs to the public that supports the real public schools on that public land.

      Real public school districts and schools have elected school boards and you can’t run for one of those positions unless you live in the area the school district covers.


  4. Thank you for writing this! I 100% agree. I spent three years teaching in one of those aforementioned charter schools who paid rent to themselves.

    I do think you’re missing a big piece though. Leave aside the money, and leave aside the “good guy” charter schools for a second. I think that the biggest argument against school choice is that choice, at its very core, is inherently unequal. When families choose between two schools, there’s always a “better” choice and a “worse” choice. Who gets left behind at the “worse” school? Our most marginalized kids. Maybe it’s the kids who don’t have transportation to the charter school that’s a little further away than their neighborhood public school. Or maybe it’s just the kids whose parents don’t have the resources to make educated decisions about their children’s education, or they don’t care. Regardless, the kids whose parents choose to advocate for them will flee to the charter schools, and the kids who have no advocates are left behind. Then, all the parents who will fight for their child’s education, or serve on a school board or PTA, are over at the charter school. Who is advocating for the kids in the failing public school?

    “A rising tide lifts all boats.” It might be a cheesy quote, but it totally applies here. If you want to fix failing public schools, encourage people to STAY and fight, for their own children and for the children who have no advocates. If some children are getting whisked away to a non-public school (charter, private, etc.), there will always be kids left behind.

    Thank you again for sharing this with the world!


    • When parents/students select a school based on test scores, that does not mean the school is better or worse. Those test scores almost always measure a high level of students attending them that live in poverty and in no way reveal the quality of the teaching taking place at schools with low or high test scores.

      Yet, when the annual Gallup-PDK survey comes out each year, a significant majority of parents, regardless of test scores, highly rate the public schools their children attend. The best perception is based on personal contact instead of second hand through what you read, like test scores used to label schools as failures, but never experience first hand.

      “Among K-12 parents, more (60%) rate their community’s schools positively, and 76% give their own child’s school an A or B grade, up a slight 6 percentage points from last year.”


      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah! That one gets closer to the point, for sure. Especially here:

    “If I may momentarily switch metaphors, instead of fixing the leak in our public school system, advocates prescribe running for the lifeboats. We could all be sailing on a strong central cruise-liner able to meet the demands of a sometimes harsh and uncaring ocean together. Instead we’re told to get into often leaky escape craft that even under the best of circumstances aren’t as strong as the system we’re abandoning.

    Make no mistake – school choice is essentially about selfishness. At every level it’s about securing something for yourself at the expense of others.”

    And I agree with you on the semantics of the phrase “failing school.”

    Thanks again,


  6. School choice is not about selfishness. That is like saying taking medicine to heal yourself is being selfish. The truth is that both public and charter schools in general need improvement. There are some amazingly good public schools. There are also some public schools that are bad for children. The same is true for charters on both ends.

    Another point is that some great schools whether traditional or charter may be good for many students, but no one school, system, methodology, approach is right for all children.

    So instead of making a delineation between traditional public and charter, focus on the impact on students. They should always be at the center of our efforts.


    • TE, school choice is exactly about selfishness. It is sold as “Save your child and to Hell with everyone else.” Sadly it doesn’t even save your child – it only saves the charter school and voucher school investors. We need to invest public money in policies that are geared to help everyone. That’s what public services are supposed to do. It’s called the public good. This is not a hard concept.


  7. This shouldn’t be about the minuscule number of charter schools. This should be directed at the failure and incompetence of the DoE from which the charter schools were born. How can you demonize the charter school without first addressing the DECADES of educational abuse levied upon the youth of this country. I attended public school and my children attended public school. I could make a very long list of the problems but I believe they are evident. You expected the educational environment to continue to put up with the gross failures of the DoE without there being some attempt to stop the hemorrhaging? Charter schools were that attempt. Until it gets its act together I welcome any alternative to the public school. You can’t tell people to continue enduring the consistent worsening of public education without a solution. Erasing charter schools isn’t a solution. It’s a call to return to less than mediocrity. At least charter schools provide some peace of mind for those of us who have seen first hand the horrors of public education. “At least somebody is doing SOMETHING!”. It’s more than I can say for public education.


    • Mark, charter schools have been with us for more than two decades. The DOE has been pushing them at least since George W Bush’s tenure. They are the status quo and they’ve failed. It’s time we recognize the essential unfairness with them, the countless problems and move on. Charters don’t work. Time to end the failed experiment. Invest in fully public schools and you’ll see a lot of the problems with them disappear. As it is public schools often do a better job than charters. Imagine how well they’d do if we didn’t disinvest in them to feed the charter machine.


      • I’ll have to disagree. I’ve been out of school over 30 years. The public schools have gotten progressively worse. California public schools are at the bottom of the barrel. They were getting worse before the charters came along. A steady decline for 50 years. Or more. It isn’t the charters. It’s the government’s monolithic restrictions. Common Core is just another example of the periodic restructuring of the system that doesn’t work. Its been happening since the 60s. Why don’t all of these “brilliant” ideas produce better educated children? Why can’t we let the states compete for the next 5 years then have a big pow wow and implement what works best all around? Or better yet (this is gonna sound nasty) corporatized education. Let the competition produce the future of education. I know that’ll never happen but the lack of innovation in public education is visible. 2¢.


      • Mark, you have a warped sense of reality if you think public schools should model themselves after corporations. They should gobble each other up and downsize our kids to the unemployment line? They should allow CEOs to take away huge bonuses while cutting everyone else’s pay? No wonder you like charter schools – it’s your corporate ideal made real. As to the struggles of public school, they echo the struggles of society. As unions have disappeared and the economy has stagnated, our schools have struggled to keep up. Those things affect the children who go to public school. With a less robust social safety net, kids come to teachers more damaged and in need. Meanwhile the government cuts funding to those schools so they can’t meet those needs – especially in poor neighborhoods. No, Mark. Public schools do an amazing job with what they have. You’ll miss them when they’re gone and you’re being chased through post apocalypse America by ragged students from your overrun competitive charter schools. Wake up, friend.


  8. But when traditional public schools fail no one says anything because the students that are failing are Black! Why is it ok for poor Black children be held hostage in failing traditional public schools? How many of YOU would keep your child in a failing school, where 80% of the children can’t read?


    • “Failing Public School” is a marketing term of the school privatization industry. It means a schools that has been purposefully underfunded and judged almost solely on standardized test scores so that fools will disenroll their children and put them in a charter school where things are much worse. Children of color are the prime victims of this system not because they’re at public schools but because those public schools are sabotaged and then the same children are given as a solution further victimization by corporate raiders. Fact: most charter schools produce worse or comparable academic results than public schools. They cut services for students and the investors pocket the savings. Society is waking up to this scam – not because we don’t care about black kids but because we do. That’s why the NAACP has asked for a moratorium on charter schools. Enough with the lies. Every public school can be excellent if they aren’t required to host charter school parasites.


    • L-P-H, please provide your evidence that public schools are failing.

      I know that public schools are not failing. The teachers are doing the job they were trained to do, teach, but children that grow up in poverty and/or dysfunctional homes often are not capable of doing their job, learning.

      Teachers teach.
      Children learn what they are taught.
      Parents support teachers and children so the children learn what they are taught.

      And, all the data from the last few decades that we have about publicly funded private sector corporate charter schools shows they are not having any success either when it comes to overcoming for children living in poverty.

      In fact, public school, the data shows repeatedly (for decades) that public schools have been outperforming most of those corporate charters.

      In addition, a study out of Stanford University back in 2013 revealed that US public schools were doing a better job teaching children that live in poverty than all other developed countries … something those hollow bragging corporate charter schools ahve failed to do over and over and over for more than twenty years.


      • The school board handicapped the teachers authority in the classroom. That’s a public school failure. Giving in to the squeeky wheel was the worst thing that could have happened to public school. You can’t teach an undisciplined class very well if your hands are tied. You know it’s true. It isn’t simply a matter of disfunctional homes. It’s the liberal machine that constantly tries to make everyone happy and constantly fail, miserably! I don’t wanna hear any biased study championing the DoE. Explain why CA, one of the richest states, has the worst schools in the country. It’s a joke. You can say what you want but some charter schools our perform public schools. Where I live the charter school has the best record in the district above ALL of the other elementary schools. Watch it and duplicate it. What’s so hard about that?


      • Mark, when school boards act the way you describe, that’s not a public school failure. It’s a democratic one. What you’re suggesting is not that we replace the school board with members who will do better but get rid of them altogether. You want an appointed charter board to make these decisions. That’s like saying we replace Trump with Putin. At least Trump we can get rid of in the next election. Putin would stay forever.

        I don’t see how you can criticize public schools for trying to do what’s best for all students. That is exactly what they should do. Nor do I see how you can blame “liberals” when our nation’s crappy education policy is incredibly bipartisan. There is little difference between Republicans and most Democrats here. Consider that Cory Booker served on school privatization boards with Betsy DeVos.

        As to overregulation, I’m willing to admit that there may be areas where this is true. But that doesn’t mean you get rid of them all. You examine each on a case-by-case basis. I think most would benefit from more funding to help us enact them.

        As to the very few charter schools that outperform neighborhood public schools, this is almost always because of differences in how they’re financed and the ability of charters to keep the most motivated students with the highest parental support and boot out the others. It doesn’t take the example of charters to show the benefits of fully funding your schools. But even if we could follow their example in selective enrollment, we should not. Public schools do have to educate everyone and any model that refuses to do that is essentially inferior.


      • I don’t see how you come to the conclusion that I want to get rid of the school board members. I suggested nothing of the kind. But if you want to know the truth, yes! They’ve done a horrible job in my opinion. If my info is correct it was Carter that expanded the school board. A liberal. They are obsessed with government controlling nearly everything. As much as the government screws up things I just don’t understand why you want them in charge of educating our children.

        If this must be the case then you have to admit that since the inception of the DoE the education in this country the educational system has progressively gotten worse. I don’t think anyone can argue with that, bipartisan or not. Steven, all I’m saying is that the government isn’t a very innovative organization. Their roll in education should be reduced to peripheral management. They aren’t the experts. Let those who really under education take the wheel. A mix of a little government and a little bit of the private sector should do it. To much of either is a bad thing. It’s possible.


      • Mark, democracy is messy. When you give people a vote they don’t always make the best decisions. But I still believe the only just governmental power derives from the consent of the governed. You will not convince me of anything otherwise. If our elected officials mess up, it is up to us to correct or replace them. Schools need privatization and corporate culture like snails need salt shakers.


      • Mark, whoever you are, she, he or it:

        Without any respect for your views, you are full of BS. I think your brain has been hacked and you surrendered your ability to fact check and reason.

        You lost all credibility with me the instant you threw out the “liberal” card as a bashing point.

        California does not have the worst public schools in the country. But California does have a more than 1.6 million children that live in poverty and poverty is the major factor in test scores alleging a school is failing.

        Since test scores are not a legitimate and accurate method to measure the ability of teachers to teach, what are you using besides test scores to make that ridiculous allegation?

        Click to access Child-Poverty-in-America-2017-State-Fact-Sheet.pdf

        Since most children attend K-12 public schools, I think a more accurate method to determine what the actual quality of that state’s public schools would be the college graduation rate in that state:

        The state with the lowest college graduation rate in the country is West Virginia at 19.9 percent and this state is ranked 49th.

        California’s rank is #15 with a college graduation rate of 32.5 percent.

        Since a significant number of students across the country do not graduate from high school on time, the on-time HS graduation rate is no reliable. The college grad rate is more reliable to determine if children learned the skills they were taught while attending K-12.



      • One of the reasons Black children are not successful in traditional public schools is because, like you, there are also people in the traditional public schools that believe that children living in poverty and/ or dysfunctional homes can’t learn. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children don’t know they’re impoverished until someone tells them or they’re treated differently, so they don’t go to school thinking “I’m poor so I can’t learn “. It’s the adults that think that, and therefore have lower expectations of them.

        You’re exactly right, children do learn what they’re taught, and if they are taught that they are different because of their socio-economic condition, and/or their dysfunctional home and/or their skin color, then yes, they will be resistant to learning. A prime example is suspending pre-K and kindergarteners from school.
        What lesson is being taught there? If a teacher can’t handle someone 3′ tall, they don’t belong in any school. It’s all about power and control.

        It’s a parents decision to send their child to a charter school, and for them to decide if the school is meeting their needs.

        All children are entitled to a good education and all parents should be able to choose where and how their child is educated, not just the powerful elite who have the means to pay for a private school. Thank you.

        Below is some of the proof you asked about:







      • Lucille, do you really think poor kids don’t know they’re poor unless someone tells them? Do you think they never question why others kids have so much more stuff than them? They never wonder why other kids have newer clothes, more food, video games, or go on trips? They never wonder why those richer kids get the honors classes while they stay in the remedial classes? They never wonder why their schools are so segregated? I don’t think you’ve thought this through.

        You seem to change your mind as you commented. Of course poor black kids can learn. No one is suggesting otherwise. But they need equitable resources to have the same opportunities as richer White kids. And you can’t have that when your authentic public school has to support a fly-by-night charter school, too.

        As to your examples of problems at the public schools, some of them are valid. Like any democratically run organization, they make mistakes. But the answer isn’t to give over to appointed bureaucrats with no transparency or accountability. Mistakes are but failure. They will always be with us. But schools run democratically will always – ALWAYS – beat undemocratic charter schools.

        Finically many of your links lead to extremely biased examples. Standardized test scores are poor judges of school’s worth just as they’re bad assessments of student learning. And let’s not forget the neoliberal bias in favor of school privatization embedded in your examples of public school failure. Some are little more than charter school advertisements by ideologies. Not good proof of anything.


      • L-P-H, by definition, you are a TROLL! The evidence follows.

        when you wrote “like you, there are also people in the traditional public schools that believe that children living in poverty and/ or dysfunctional homes can’t learn”

        Since I never said that or think it, that makes you a liar and a troll.

        I will let this 2013 study out of Stanford help explain what I meant.

        FIRST: “The report also found:

        There is an achievement gap between more and less disadvantaged students (meaning children living in poverty and/or in dysfunctional homes and/or having learning disabilities) in every country; surprisingly, that gap is smaller in the United States than in similar post-industrial countries, and not much larger than in the very highest scoring countries.

        “Achievement of U.S. disadvantaged students has been rising rapidly over time, while achievement of disadvantaged students in countries to which the United States is frequently unfavorably compared – Canada, Finland and Korea, for example – has been falling rapidly.”



        I never identified the ethnicity of children living in poverty as black as you did here: “One of the reasons Black children are not successful in traditional public schools is because,”

        You see, children of all ethnicities live in poverty and struggle with the challenges that poverty causes, not just black children. I should know since I was one of those children living in poverty and I had a severe case of Dyslexia thanks to my parents’ tobacco addiction and my father’s alcoholism. That is why as a public school teacher I felt right at home working with high numbers of children living in poverty. I felt they could escape like I did.

        “Children in poverty by race and ethnicity in the United States”


        American Indian 232,000
        Asian and Pacific Islander 423,000
        Black or African Ameican 3,346,000
        Hispanic or Latino 4,811.000
        Non-Hispanic White 4,063,000
        Two or more races 904,000
        Total 13,253,000


        “Poverty Impact on Mental Health”

        “Another factor that restricts the school success of children in poverty is stress. Stress from housing conditions, poor nutrition, and other factors can affect a child’s physical and cognitive development.”


        The color of a child skin does not make a difference when living in poverty affects that child’s physical and cognitive development.

        Why did you single out black children? What does that say about you?

        Go back and read what that Stanford study said about an achievement gap between more and less disadvantaged students in every country. Do you know what the word EVERY means? Every ethnic group! Every country!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Steven,

    Why do you wish to close the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf? I think closing “every.single.one” would require closing schools that you actually think should remain open.


    • TE, I thought I made this clear in the article. I don’t think all charter schools need to be disbanded though I think most of them will need to be. Those charters that are offering a valuable service to the students, parents and community should be kept open – but they should have to give up their charters. They should have to become fully authentic public schools and everything that entails. No more special rules for some institutions and not others. Transparency, accountability and equity for all. Otherwise become a private school and continue functioning the way you already are but not on the public dime.


      • So you would make WPSD a district school in the Forrest Hills School District? Would you allow students who do not live in the Forest Hills School District to attend? WPSD has served students throughout Pennsylvania since it was founded in 1869. I doubt there will be enough deaf students in the school district to keep the school open, but perhaps some parents might move into the district so their children can get the specialized education provided by the school.


    • TE, I don’t think you understand how authentic public schools work. There are some districts that can’t provide certain services and have tuition agreements with other schools to do so. For instance, the Duquesne District only has a K-8 program. They send their students to other participating districts for 9-12 grade. Yet this agreement doesn’t do away with transparency, accountability or elected school boards. We also have career and technical schools like Steel Center. Many districts send students there and the career and technical school is governed by a consortium of elected representatives from participating communities. We can manage quite well without privatization, thank you.


      • So you think that Woodland Hills School District would continue the residential program at WPSD and fund the program out of local property taxes? I am keeping in mind that there be no special funding for a school that has been dedicated to educating the deaf for 150 years.


      • TE, the money would probably come from these children’s home districts. They would need a tuition reimbursement plan. I’m not sure if Woodland Hills would be the best choice to run it or not. This might work better with a consortium model like the career and technical schools. I’m sure a workable plan could be devised that kept transparency, democracy and accountability without resorting to privatization. Public schools are much more resourceful than you give them credit.


    • Mark, your article shows that the Department of Education found that over all charter schools do no better academically than authentic public schools. This is not exactly news. The CREDO study had the same conclusion. And keep in mind both studies are extremely biased in favor of charter schools. This new study was conducted by employees of Betsy DeVos and they STILL couldn’t spin the case in favor of their chosen school policies. Imagine if they had looked at all of the facts honestly! For instance, charter schools get to pick and choose the students they wish to enroll. They often take only the most motivated, supported and easiest students to teach while public schools have to take everyone – AND CHARTERS STILL DON’T OUTPERFORM PUBLIC SCHOOLS!!!! Second, this study is based on standardized test scores. These are terrible assessments. If you do nothing but teach to the test – as many charter schools do – you’re bound to increase test scores. Yet CHARTERS STILL DON’T OUTPERFORM PUBLIC SCHOOLS!!!! These studies give charters every benefit of the doubt and stack the odds in their favor, yet find that CHARTERS STILL DON’T OUTPERFORM PUBLIC SCHOOLS!!!!

      This supports my point. It doesn’t weaken it.

      But even if the results were different, my point would stand. Charters are unjust. They are prone to scandal and abuse. They could produce great test scores and still be unjust. Time for them to go into the dustbin of history.


      • Steven, if all you say is true you still have to admit that the charter schools were born from the poor public school systems. If children were getting great education from the public school no one would feel the need to search elsewhere. I certainly wouldn’t. At the end of the day it’s the overall failure of the public schools that have parents wanting something better. To you, charter schools may be a poor alternative but when parents are desperate they will try anything. I really want to be able to send my kid to a great public school but nearly all the schools in my district are consistantly overcrowded and seriously underperforming. Now, what? What are parents like me supposed to do? Just suck it up and hang tough? It’s easy to knock the charter shools but in communities like mine they aren’t a bad alternative. Do they need to go away as you say? Let’s say they do. What’s my alternative? Leave my district for a school that scores a 9 on greatschools.org or choose from the 4 high schools that score 2-3?
        The various charters score between 5 and 8. But if I follow your leading I should ignore those charters and pray I can win the admissions lottery at the school out of my district. I’m not against public schools. I’m against failing public schools. And don’t even get me started on immigration and the educational resources that should be going to the children of American citizens that gets swallowed up by children of illegal immigrants that overload system here in So. Cal.
        So, what do I do, Steve?
        What’s the answer?


      • Mark, you have to understand how badly you’re being played for a fool by the businesses running these charter schools. The same corporations running these schools are in bed with the corporations making and grading the standardized tests. When we talk about “failing schools” that’s really what we mean – schools where kids get low test scores. It’s a scam. The test company makes the bogus test, scores it and then gets to sell remediation materials to the school if enough kids fail. And they get a kickback when their sister company (a charter school) gets increased enrollment from the patsies who buy the BS and try to get their kids enrolled somewhere else.

        Our public schools are struggling, but only those serve the poor and minorities. That’s because we target them for disinvestment and then blame them for this lack of resources by reference to test scores. This grreatschools.org is a sham Website. Like so many others, it pretends that test scores mean everything and then shepherds kids into the charter schools. Don’t fall for it.

        Do you really think a better school is a charter where you have no say how your tax dollars are spent? Is it better because you have no elected school board? Is it better because the corporation gets to pick who to enroll? Is it better because it can cut services for your children and pocket the savings as profit? Is it better because it doesn’t have to provide special education services for special needs students?

        You are being told that these factors make it better. Don’t buy that garbage.

        What should you do? FIGHT. Fight for your neighborhood public school. Fight for what you and your children deserve. So-called “failing schools” usually do an excellent job for students given the resources they have to work with. And please stop the Fox News paranoia about immigrants. We are not being overrun. Stop listening to the propaganda and use your brain. Five minutes critical thought will defeat any charter school advertisement.


      • Bogus test? You mean there is some evil corporation making some test that makes it impossible for children to do well on? Do you hear yourself, Steven? Give me the name of the company and the test.
        Firstly, I do not watch Fox News.
        I think you mean well but you can’t be everywhere at once. You don’t know what’s happening in my district and I know an awful lot wirh an emphasis on AWFUL. I don’t know the real reason l reason why you’re cheerleading for the public school so hard. You must live in some educational utopia. The bottom line is that as a parent I should be able to choose where my kid goes to school. Not the state. This is what’s supposed to happen when you live in a free society. The government has screwed up education. And yes, if I believe my child will do better at a school not run by the state then that’s the kinda school I want then to attend. I hear these conspiracy theories all the time but nothing can counter the evidence of success. Public schools are bad/ good, charter schools are bad/ good. My choice, not the government!


      • Mark, what companies make standardized tests in America? Pearson, Data Recognition Corp, the PARCC Consortium and others. These are private corporations whose business model is failure. Read up on it.

        As to charter schools, who is this government boogie man you’re so scared of? Public schools are paid for by the public. That’s you and me. So they’re run by the public. That’s you and me. The government you’re so set against is an elected board of representatives decided upon by you and me. You want to escape that and replace it with appointed bureaucrats. And you’re entitled to that wish but you’re not entitled to use tax dollars to get it. If you want to choose such a school for your child, pay for it yourself. Don’t try to take the money everyone else pays in to reach your goal. You are not entitled to that. Community money = community governance. No taxation without representation. Period.

        Public schools are as good as democracy. None of them are perfect but they’re better than any alternative.


      • I didn’t say I want to replace anything. You guys have a bad habbit of putting words in my mouth. I want to send my kid to a good public school. There isn’t one readily available. But there is a great charter. But since I can’t afford private schools you want my kids to suffer the last few years in this horrible public school. You have NO answers but to “fight” these backward politicians that I DIDN’T vote for. That’s just great, Steve. Thanks for the suggestions but no thanks. Great conversation but still no solution.✌


      • Mark, you’ve just proven my point. Parents don’t want Choice. Not really. They want a great public school. So how do we give them that? The answer is not multiple parallel schools, it’s one great one.

        Second, how do you know your neighborhood public school is bad and the charter is great? If it’s because of test scores, you’ve bought the propaganda. If it’s because the public school is full of brown skinned immigrants, you’ve bought prejudice and racism.

        You can decry the situation it look at it full in the face. Democracy is not a spectator sport. If you aren’t willing to fight for your rights, no one else will. If you want freedom, you have to be the kind of person deserving of freedom.

        For further reading: https://gadflyonthewallblog.com/2017/01/29/u-s-public-schools-are-not-failing-theyre-among-the-best-in-the-world/


  10. […] I want to ask you about charter schools. Why do we need them at all? Why do we need schools that are publicly funded but privately run? Shouldn’t public schools that accept public money have to accept public administration – elected school boards, transparency and accountability? Shouldn’t all public schools be required to accept all student who live in their coverage areas and not be allowed to cherry pick students? Wouldn’t it be better to close all charter schools that can’t meet the same requirements as auth…? […]


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