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There Is Virtually No Difference Between Nonprofit and For-Profit Charter Schools

There Is Virtually No Difference Between Nonprofit and For-Profit Charter Schools

Steven Singer

Stop kidding yourself. Charter schools are a bad deal.

"It’s time for the charter school experiment to end.

And it’s way passed time to support fully public schools."



I’ve always asked people who are big on charter schools to think about one thing. When it comes right down to it, if the school year comes down to your child getting a quality education or the school making it’s bottom line as determined by Wall St., who wins and who loses? Does your child get a quality education or does your private school make it’s projected bottom line? You know the answer and it’s not your child!

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Charter Schools were designed to fleece the American taxpayer of school taxes, period.

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They took the li’l Jimmys’ schools.
They took the li’l Jimmys’ lunch money.

My kid is getting a good education in an LAUSD charter school (which is also our closest option). If that changes before he leaves to go to middle school, I will comsider my options. The hyperbole from this author Is a big turnoff. I’m for single payer but I’m going to negotiate the existing system the best I can - same here.

The charter school movement began in the 90’s as an in-house teacher attempt to improve public education, and was accompanied by the belief that public schools are so entrenched that they cannot be meaningly reformed from within. I think much the same argument applies to the discussion whether the Democrats can be improved from within, or whether we should abandon them and form a third party. I incline toward the latter view, btw.

It’s a hard truth, but it’s nonetheless true: nature abhors a vacuum (in this case the vacuum is that created by historic teacher and union resistance to substantial reforms and measures of teacher performance and accountability). Intransigence is the only word, a circling of the wagons, a stiff necked resistance to measures like these–I know, I worked and lived through the time in public schools myself.

Singer may be right that the charter school movement has spun out of control, I have no quibble with that whatsoever. In fact, let’s get rid of all charter schools as he suggests.

But here’s the quid pro quo: if we get rid of charter schools then we must take serious steps to improve the performance of existing public schools. I have criticized Singer before on this score–it’s one thing to point out what’s wrong w charter schools, but that is a distraction. What we need to be discussing is how can we improve public education so that a greater percentage of students graduate w a measure of curiosity, the ability to understand ideas, and a critical and literate temperament that fits them for participatory citizenship.

Alas, Mr. Singer seems reluctant to discuss these issues. But they are the quid pro quo. So while we blame billionaires and profiteers, we must not forget that it has been teacher resistance to solid accountability measures that has created this void, this vacuum. The public wants more from its schools, not business as usual.

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While some few charter schools may provide superior learning experiences, the privatization system itself, emanating from the Bush era (2002), “No Child Left Behind Act” is not devised to do so. The federal government has never funded public education as needed; but its military never goes hungry for murder money (Lockheed Martin made the bomb recently used by Saudi Arabia to kill children on a school bus in Yemen).
Singer is perfectly correct: all charter schools are meant for private profit. Federal government investment, bringing high quality education to our nation’s public schools is financially a “lost leader;” but such spending would pay for a democratic society.


You make an interesting analogy. I know the anti-charter side will bristle at any analogy between the charter school movement and say the Green party, but I can see what you are saying (even though I incline toward the inside strategy): you can’t expect to woo over the Green party voters without actually addressing the reasons they went there in the first place.

I’m not necessarily behind any of the aspects of charter schools or an over reliance on objective assessment of teachers. I want teachers to be paid more and I want them to be as easily fired as I am (which isn’t easy, but not herculean either). I know who the good teachers are for my kid - it is easy to see the difference, and I hear this from other parents too. This year he has a really good one and several students who used to say they hate school now say they love school (and are learning). We all want this. If some of us are getting it though a charter school, we aren’t the enemy. Likewise, even though I favor the inside strategy, I never bemoan the Green party and always put the blame on the Democratic party for not getting the votes they need.

I’m all for stronger regulation on profit (e.g. in my mind there need be no for-profit charter schools, and the non-profit ones can be regulated better to prevent the events the author is concerned with).

Totally agree, and I do not disagree with any of Singer’s financial points. I am though also aware of the need for incubators of new education practices. How do we provide for this in Real Education Reform, while eliminating charters. Any ideas Steven? (asking in positive and hopeful tone)

How do we get real education reform while eliminating charters? First, realize that eliminating charters IS real education reform. Charters have not given us any authentic education reforms. They’ve found great ways to put public money into private pockets. But they haven’t helped students except where they provide adaquete resources. Do that in all public schools. Make sure all students have the funding they need to succeed. Provide equitable funding so poor and minority kids can catch up to the rich white ones. Support real integration efforts so no racial or economic group can be disadvantaged without hurting all kids. Get rid of regressive high stakes standardized testing and canned Common Core standards. Make sure all teachers have the autonomy to teach the children in their classes and strengthen unions so those same teachers can do what needs to be done without having to constantly look over their shoulders. Strengthen local control measures so school boards can’t be co-opted by the state or dark money in elections. In short, the best innovation would be to get rid of all the neoliberal corporate reforms put in place by Reagan, the Bushes, Clinton, Obama and Trump. Center education on students not profits.

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