I start by saying that there are probably good charter schools out there just like I know there are perfectly fine public schools.
One of the things that leaves me bewildered are the claims by some who say “public schools aren’t accountable, and that charter schools are an improvement”. Public schools are run by an elected board. Schools are nothing if not continuously accountable to the tax payers. Charter schools are businesses who are accountable to no one.
Take this charter school that has won the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This group of charter schools uses fines as discipline. Not sitting up straight in class results in a fine. Bringing unhealthy food from home is fineable. In three years, the school has collected nearly $400,000 in fines! Some of these fines are nearly $300!!
The school’s claim is that these are not “fines”, but “fees” to cover the cost of discipline. The article’s writer notes that Catholic schools don’t charge extra for their discipline.
To be fair, the charter schools note that the public schools don’t discipline their kids enough. They are likely right, but those are often times legal restrictions. That said, simply saying “we need to have better discipline” doesn’t seem justification to bleed families who likely can’t afford it, and add it to company profit.
To give some props to this charter school company, this was the only charter school to post standardized test scores above the Chicago Public Schools. Congratulations, you scored above mediocrity, and still finished substantially behind most public schools in the state. This seems to be far from marked improvement.
I endorse public schools, and endorse that some restrictions placed on public schools in terms of maintaining discipline should be reviewed. That said, this article reminds me that charter schools are far from the best solution to whatever problems are plaguing schools. There are a lot of complaints out there that schools don’t have enough business sense. Here is a prime example of what happens when businesses get their hooks into education: they turn schools into businesses accountable only to shareholders, and those shareholders are far too often not students and parents.