Charter Schools: A deal with the devil

There were a few good RMG discussions about education reform, such that when I ran across this NYT article from a few months ago, a few ideas came to mind.

And, typical of the NYT to ignore the obvious and get the obvious things wrong:

1. it will go completely unnoticed when unions ruin charters.  just as the similarities between maps like this and this go unnoticed.

2. school ‘reform’ can never mean temporary solutions, such as charters, to fundamental problems, there were some good discussions about this previously in thread like this one.

3. the state always comes back into the house to molest success, no matter how many times it promises to leave

prediction: it’s just a matter of time before all schools call themselves “charters” in the same way that all schools claim they’re ‘blue ribbon award winners’ and the distinctions completely disappear, and in the meantime the total failure of government education continues on.

Notes – Mass Charters“C” rating for state law by the Ctr. for Ed. Reform

As More Charter Schools Unionize, Educators Debate the Effect

July 27, 2009 Monday

The New York Times

July 27, 2009 Monday

Late Edition – Final

SECTION: Section A; Column 0; National Desk; Pg. 1




Dissatisfied with long hours, churning turnover and, in some cases, lower pay than instructors at other public schools, an increasing number of teachers at charter schools are unionizing.

Labor organizing that began two years ago at seven charter schools in Florida has proliferated over the last year to at least a dozen more charters from Massachusetts and New York to California and Oregon.

Charter schools, which are publicly financed but managed by groups separate from school districts, have been a mainstay of the education reform movement and widely embraced by parents. Because most of the nation’s 4,600 charter schools operate without unions, they have been freer to innovate, their advocates say, allowing them to lengthen the class day, dismiss underperforming teachers at will, and experiment with merit pay and other changes that are often banned by work rules governing traditional public schools. To make sure that Charter schools are doing things in the correct way through the eyes of the law, they should decide to hire attorney services that specialize in this area so that all the decisions they are making are suitable. This could be one of the reasons why they prove to be a success.

”Charter schools have been too successful for the unions to ignore,” said Elizabeth D. Purvis, executive director of the Chicago International Charter School, where teachers voted last month to unionize 3 of its 12 campuses.

President Obama has been especially assertive in championing charter schools. On Friday, he and the education secretary, Arne Duncan, announced a competition for $4.35 billion in federal financing for states that ease restrictions on charter schools and adopt some charter-like standards for other schools — like linking teacher pay to student achievement.

But the unionization effort raises questions about whether unions will strengthen the charter movement by stabilizing its young, often transient teaching force, or weaken it by preventing administrators from firing ineffective teachers and imposing changes they say help raise achievement, like an extended school year.

”A charter school is a more fragile host than a school district,” said Paul T. Hill, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. ”Labor unrest in a charter school can wipe it out fast. It won’t go well for unions if the schools they organize decline in quality or go bust.”

Unions are not entirely new to charter schools. Teachers at hundreds of charter schools in Wisconsin, California and elsewhere have long been union members, not because they signed up, but because of local laws, like those that extend union status to all schools in a state or district.

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