Guest Column

On Charter schools – either believe the ultra right or believe educational experts

By Elsa Salazar Cade
January 24, 2005

So, we get to learn "how to interpret" the effects of charter schools on our Hispanic American children based on the opinion of right wing  supporters of G. W. Bush!  On the Hispanic Online Opinion link: Charter  schools are working especially for Hispanics. Really! 

The  link is to  an article on the National Review by Jennifer A. Marshall and Kirk A.  Johnson, experts at the Heritage Foundation.  Their mission statement:  "The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute - a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative  public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited  government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a 
strong national defense."  

Many Hispanic Americans are not students of  educational reform and would be confused about the merits of charter  schools by the back and forth claims of  critics and proponents.   However, who would you tend to believe more when it comes to evaluating data?  A governmental agency whose task it is to study statistics on  charter schools and present  "The Nation's report card"  or  senior  policy analysts at a right wing think tank promoting "limited  government" (that means closing your local public school)?

According to the GAO report (The United States Accountability office)  January 2005:    http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-5: Nearly all of the 39 states in our survey reported that they released  charter schools from some traditional public school requirements. - All but 2 states offered release in one or more of 30 areas that states  identified, from reporting requirements to staffing practices to  student discipline. The greatest number of states released charter  schools from teacher termination procedures and length of school day  (21 states), teacher compensation and benefits (22 states), collective  bargaining procedures (22 states), and requirements established for  local school boards (23 states). Officials in 6 states reported that  the state released charter schools from almost all traditional public  school requirements, while a few requirements, such as the minimum  number of teachers required, the use of district-approved text books,  and graduation requirements, were released in only a few states. Most  states released charter schools from some traditional school  requirements.

The most that the report said was that we needed more data. According  to the report a school may fail to meet the improvement targets for  three years before our kids get extra help!

"If a school does not meet the target for a third year, students must  be offered supplementary educational services, such as tutoring. " page  26 of the report GAO-05-5. Three years is a HUGE amount of time in a  child's life.  The tutoring would not start until the child's fourth  year in school.  Who would deliver the tutoring the same school that  fell down in educational delivery?

On top of that, The  study by the National Assessment Governing  Board, which examined data for about 6,500 charter school students and  376,000 regular public school students—found that charter school  children taught by teachers with four years of experience or less  performed significantly worse in both reading and math than students in  regular public schools with similarly inexperienced teachers. And  students at charter schools were far more likely to have such teachers  

It also found that far more teachers in charter schools lacked regular  teaching credentials.  Charter schools have poor infrastructure, and  lack educators with credentials. This sounds a lot like failing  neglected public schools.

    If lack of credentials and release of traditional requirements look  like a winning ticket for your child, go to it I guess.  To me it looks  like more of the same.  Poor people of color are given the same choice  they had before.  The right wing ideologues propose withdrawing funding  from already poorly funded schools and sending it to charter schools  with a variety of mandates. 

But, we need more data before we find out  they don't work.  This gives the appearance of reestablishing the  separate but equal system.  Charters schools with fundamentalist  Christian mandates get federal funding and the have-nots get to go to  "other" schools that don't have to meet the requirements of regular  schools.  Catholic schools and other private schools have to charge  tuition in order to run their schools.  Those folks know that if they  want their children to get religious education or elitist education, 
they have to pay for it.

The charter system sets up publicly funded  private schools and at the same time off loads minority children on to  schools that don't have to meet requirements.  This sounds like  "separate but equal"  to me. 

They won't "throw" money at public  education,  but they are willing to spend money on collecting data on  charter schools to see if they work or not.

    Frankly, common sense tells you that to release charter schools from  having to meet the requirements of a public school doesn't really make  sense.  Yeah, in a time when public education is establishing standards  of education for all Americans, we are sitting back and letting the  Bushies tell you that less is more for Hispanic children.

Don't take it  sitting down write your congressman!   Demand equity in education for Hispanic American children.  Racist educational policy remains  entrenched regardless of what you call it!
For a view from the left go to......... Conservatives flip flop on  research standards:     http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=8638
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Elsa Salazar Cade can be reached at: ecade@telusplanet.net

Also read Ms. Salazar Cade’s – “Follow up on charter schools: the facts” - http://www.hispanicvista.com/HVC/Opinion/Guest_Columns/102504salazar-cade.htm