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The Failure of Charter Schools

Donald Cohen

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Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) released striking data about the rapid turnover of charter schools. CMD’s state-by-state list of closed charters shows that, since 2000, these schools have failed at a much higher rate than traditional public schools. And over this time, millions of federal dollars went to groups planning to start charter schools that never even opened.

Instead of giving children the ‘disruption’ of a school closure, we should do everything we can to give every child access to a great school.

Earlier this month, teachers and school staff in Seattle did just that. After a five-day strike, they won a better education for students at traditional public schools across the city. Elementary school students now have guaranteed daily recess, which many parents had wanted, and special education teachers will teach smaller, more individualized classes. And there will be caseload limits for other specialists at city schools, including psychologists and occupational therapists.

The Seattle win also helps families: equality committees will be created at some city schools to focus on issues like disciplinary measures that disproportionately affect minorities.

Two very different ideas of how to educate our children are at odds in this country. One says that the market is the most equitable way to distribute goods, even public goods like education, and that failing schools should open and close like businesses. The other says that failure isn’t an option.

 

Photo by Rob Briscoe

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