Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Please Don’t Loosen the Charter Schools Rules

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 12:23 PM

click to enlarge school_20kids.jpg
We shouldn't have trusted Wall Street with deregulation. Why should we trust it for schools? Like many a mayor, Karl Dean is beginning to eye charter schools as a key ingredient in reviving the Metro school system. There’s good reason for his thesis: The city’s three charters are out-performing the rest of the district when it comes to raising test scores. Now there’s talk of loosening Tennessee’s charter regulations, among the most restrictive in the country. Please don’t. As we’ve learned from Wall Street, less regulation often means we’re about to get screwed. Take it from a guy from Ohio. In the Buckeye State, the conservative legislature – no fan of public schools – made it very easy to open charters. The idea was to offer an alternative to the wretched public systems in Toledo, Akron, Cleveland, Dayton, and Cincinnati, whose problems were much worse than Nashville’s. Cleveland, for example, was sporting a 24 percent graduation rate. Go team! But years later, the state came to a startling conclusion: Most charters were actually performing worse than the worst of the public schools. Administrators were pocketing top dollar. The level of study was laughable. One connected Republican fundraiser managed to pull in more than $100 million with his chain of charters – though no one really knows where the money went. Deregulation, you see, rarely works beyond textbook theory. To many, it’s merely a large billboard that reads: AMPLE SCAMMING OPPORTUNITIES HERE! Not just anyone can run a school. The only charters that excelled were those run by very dedicated, veteran teachers, people who flourish outside the bureaucracy and top-down management of conventional education. Which may explain why the three in Nashville are succeeding. The regulations are so restrictive, not just anyone can open a school. And that’s the way it should be, isn’t it?

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