Fred Campbell:  “Wow, a Republican could have written your column yesterday.  I’ve never heard a national Democrat espouse such support for charter schools because they are so vehemently opposed by the teachers’ unions.”

☞ Lots of Democrats support charters — President Bill Clinton, for example, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Perhaps you missed President Obama’s 2013 National Charter Schools Proclamation last year.  In part:

America’s success in the 21st century depends on what we do today to reignite the true engine of our economic growth: a thriving middle class. Achieving that vision means making sure our education system provides ladders of opportunity for our sons and daughters. . . . Charter schools play an important role in meeting that obligation. These learning laboratories give educators the chance to try new models and methods that can encourage excellence in the classroom and prepare more of our children for college and careers. In return for this flexibility, we should expect high standards and accountability, and make tough decisions to close charter schools that are underperforming and not improving. But where charter schools demonstrate success and exceed expectations, we should share what they learn with other public schools and replicate those that produce dramatic results. Many charter schools choose to locate in communities with few high-quality educational options, making them an important partner in widening the circle of opportunity for students who need it most. . . . I commend our Nation’s charter schools, teachers, and administrators, and I call on States and communities to support charter schools and the students they serve.

The truth is, I had missed that proclamation, too — and didn’t even know, when I wrote yesterday’s post, that we are smack dab in the middle of this year’s National Charter School Week!  As proclaimed by the President again last Friday.

John Leeds:  “Success??  Not surprised but disappointed you use numbers speciously to support your argument.  It makes a HUGE difference which 20% of the parents are not applying.  About 90% of the problems of a school are caused by 10% of the student population.  And I know that from direct experience.  And although I teach in the suburbs, I know teachers that switched into inner-city NYC public schools from the suburbs and they say the same.  As for the cost per pupil?  The cost per pupil is dependent on two main costs — upkeep of the building and teacher salary.  The charters get the building for free and so the cost per pupil is zero.  The public schools have to include the building expenses in the cost per pupil.  Charter schools in NYC are notorious for hiring young teachers and burning them out before they leave for a different career.  There are few if any career teachers who will be higher on the salary scale and the younger teachers don’t have to pace themselves because they tend to leave in 1-3 years.  Did you ever watch the Jon Stewart videos — here and here — with Arne Duncan?  While you were quoting test stats, it would have been fair and balanced of you to link to those so people understand just what standardized testing means in public education.”

☞ Well, I did watch the Jon Stewart clips.  I thought it was a good discussion.

I’m no expert, but it seems to me that if we’ve found a way to do a great job for 80% of disadvantaged inner city kids, and at less than we’re spending per pupil city-wide, who cares what the building maintenance costs?  It will be returned to the taxpayers 100-fold over the child’s adult lifetime in higher tax revenue and lower safety-net and correctional-system expenditures.  And the cycle of poverty will be broken, so the benefits extend more than one lifetime.  (It’s also just the right thing to do morally.)

As for the 20% of Harlem parents who didn’t enter the Success Academy lottery, note, first, that, if I remember this right, half of them entered  some charter-school lottery (i.e., 90% entered one or more).  And it’s just possible not all the 10% who failed to enter a lottery were horrible parents with learning-disabled children.  Some may have had their kids in parochial school . . . or may have been horrible parents whose kids were nonetheless fully able to learn).

And I’d ask you this:  if we could get 80% or 90% (or 95%?) of all disadvantaged kids successfully educated for about what we currently spend to get terrible results, would that be bad?

We’d still have the huge challenge of the other 5% or 10% — and should do all we can to meet that challenge.  But doing a great job for 80% or 90% or 95% of the kids should surely count for something.

If we can find a formula that really works, or really works for some kids, we should apply it, at least for those kids.  Who cares what it costs?



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