Saturday, August 24, 2013
Parents should have school choice; vouchers and charters should not be among them. (rough draft)
Parents should have the choice of home schooling, sending their kids to private school or to public school. And say they don’t like what is happening in their neighborhood school the opportunity to get in there to make it better. Charter schools and vouchers should not be an option.
The Public School System is designed to benefit all of us, whether we have children attending a public school or not, to dilute its resources and by sending children to substandard options which is what charter schools and private schools that accept vouchers are, harms us all.
First let me say there are undoubtedly high quality charter schools and even I think charter schools have a role to play but just as a supplement to our public schools not as a replacement for them.
Most people don’t know it but Albert Shanker a very liberal union leader coined the concept. Now demonized by most charter school proponents, he envisioned charter schools as parent teacher driven laboratories where new and innovative techniques could be tried free off the sometimes-stifling constraints of the public school system. To be honest that doesn’t sound bad. Teachers today are forced to spend so much time on zone plans, word walls and standards based bulletin boards that the time they have to teach and make connections is limited.
The problem however is here in Florida Charter schools are more profit centers than schools. They are run by corporations who care more about the bottom line than what happens to their students. Furthermore numerous members of the Florida Legislature are making a lot of money off of them. Another intended consequence is they are used to weaken the power of the teacher’s unions, as they are not union shops. This has salary, benefit, pension and working conditions ramifications. Some of you might not like the unions but our schools would be much worse off without them because without them you couldn’t find anybody to work in our schools.
Finally about Charters despite huge advantages they are not performing as well as public schools at least in Florida and that should be a huge red flag. The truth is they should be killing public schools but they aren’t and even if you love charter schools that should concern you.
Then there are vouchers. I also think they have a limited role to play. If a kid needs a certain program and a public school doesn’t provide it by a private school does, then a voucher should be allowed, however just because you don’t like public schools isn’t a good enough reason. The public should not subsidize that choice. Furthermore private schools benefit form the same advantages as charter schools including picking whom they take and despite that, private school attendees who use vouchers don’t perform any better than their public school counterparts.
Imagine a three-ray race where one runner is blindfolded and has their shoes tied together, public schools, and the other two charter schools and vouchers, were free of any constraints. The results of the race would be public schools tied with vouchers and charter schools coming in last. It boggles the mind that some people think public schools are failing and choice will save the school system.
We are pouring money into charters and vouchers not so kids can get a better education but so legislators and their friends and family members, and so corporations can make a buck.