Fight Against Charter Schools Moves to the Suburbs

2009 CREDO Report Stanford University - http://sacdac.org/Paradox.aspx

Charter School advocates have expanded their desire to “corporatize” and privatize education to the suburbs, even pursuing establishing specialized Charter Schools in well to do areas with excellent school systems. Unlike in poor areas where parents have little political clout – suburban residents are pushing back hard against what they see as a drain upon the resources of their school systems, and a ripoff of their tax dollars.

Charter School Battle Shifts to Affluent Suburbs

MILLBURN, N.J. — Matthew Stewart believes there is a place forcharter schools. Just not in his schoolyard.

Mr. Stewart, a stay-at-home father of three boys, moved to this wealthy township, about 20 miles from Midtown Manhattan, three years ago, filling his life with class activities and soccer practices. But in recent months, he has traded play dates for protests, enlisting more than 200 families in a campaign to block two Mandarin-immersion charter schools from opening in the area.

The group, Millburn Parents Against Charter Schools, argues that the schools would siphon money from its children’s education for unnecessarily specialized programs. The schools, to be based in nearby Maplewood and Livingston, would draw students and resources from Millburn and other area districts.

“I’m in favor of a quality education for everyone,” Mr. Stewart said. “In suburban areas like Millburn, there’s no evidence whatsoever that the local school district is not doing its job. So what’s the rationale for a charter school?”

Suburbs like Millburn, renowned for educational excellence, have become hotbeds in the nation’s charter school battles, raising fundamental questions about the goals of a movement that began 20 years ago in Minnesota.

Charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently operated, have mostly been promoted as a way to give poor children an alternative to underperforming urban schools — to provide options akin to what those who can afford them have in the suburbs or in private schools.

Now, educators and entrepreneurs are trying to bring the same principles of choice to places where schools generally succeed, typically by creating programs, called “boutique charters” by detractors like Mr. Stewart, with intensive instruction in a particular area.

In Montgomery County, Md., north of Washington, the school board is moving toward its first charter, a Montessori elementary school, after initially rejecting it and two others with global and environmental themes because, as one official said, “we have a very high bar in terms of performance.”

Imagine Schools, a large charter school operator, has held meetings in Loudoun County, Va., west of Washington, to gauge parental interest in charters marketed partly as an alternative to overcrowded schools.

In Illinois, where 103 of the current 116 charter schools are in Chicago, an Evanston school board committee is considering opening the district’s first charter school.

More than half of Americans live in suburbs, and about 1 in 5 of the 4,951 existing charter schools were located there in 2010, federal statistics show. Advocates say many proposed suburban charters have struggled because of a double standard that suggests charters are fine for poor urban areas, but are not needed in well-off neighborhoods.

“I think it has to do with comfort level and assumptions based on real estate and not reality,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform in Washington, which studies and supports charter schools. “The houses are nice, people have money, and therefore the schools must be good.”…

The bigger problem, at least to my mind, is that despite a few exceptionally performing Charter Schools – the vast majority perform no better, and often worse than the schools they supposedly were designed to replace. Indeed, when comparing “Apples to Apples”, elite and selective public Schools versus Charters… It’s no contest. And while the concept of “special purpose” Charter Schools with specialized curriculum, WTF are we doing this when school districts across the country are cutting basic programs and laying off teachers because of the economic disaster the conservatives made of America?

 

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