The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Opinions of Charter Schools from Those who Know Education

on May 10, 2017

Sunday in the Letters section of the New York Times the only letters published  disagreed with a recent opinion piece by David Leonhardt that supported charter schools. Because I found the arguments in the letters persuasive, I will offer a quote from each one of them as today’s post and briefly mention the backgrounds of their writers.

Those who wish to read the original Leonhardt essay or the full letters that appeared in dissent can find them at these links.


From a retired science teacher:

Although charters often use a lottery system, many do not accept special needs students on the grounds that they cannot meet those need. In addition, charter schools such as the Success Academy network in New York City expel students whose behavior does not meet school standards that have been shown to be punitive, harsh, and controlling.

From a former New York State deputy commissioner of education:

David Leonhardt provides some pretty thin evidence in support of charter schools as an alternative to traditional public schools and vouchers. It is true that charters have proven to be effective when states have implemented clear education standards for them. But there are for too many states where the oversight is lacking, including Michigan, where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos led efforts to opposing stronger requirements.

From a current public school teacher:

Charter operators benefit from a populace that has a weak and confused understanding of public institutions and the public good. Calling a charter school a public school is like calling a defense contractor a public institution because it consumes public funds.

From the executive director of Class Size Matters:

David Leonhardt ignores the fact that very few charters enroll and retain equal numbers of at-risk students as traditional public schools—children with serious disabilities, those who receive free lunch, and/or recent immigrants and English- language learners.

From a retired teacher:

While charter schools are given much freedom in regard to curriculum design and innovation, traditional schools are run in a top-down manner, with teachers being given less and less opportunity to design curriculum or innovate. By the time I retired, I no longer felt like a professional expert in my field. I was simply handed a boatload of curriculum and told to stick to the calendar.

Although I have never observed in a charter school, everything I have read about them bothers me. The processes of selection and retention of students seem unfair, the teaching practices wrong for real learning, and the discipline very harsh.  My greatest concern, however, is the huge drain on the funds that should be going to public schools. Basically, the ways charter schools are founded and sustained look like a swindle, aimed at enriching private owners and operators and, ultimately, destroying public education.

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