As the November elections approach, both President Obama and Mitt Romney have jumped aboard the charter school train. They both promise ever more of them.
Charter schools are already a very big business. More than $12 billion is spent on them annually. The trouble is a lot of larcenous people are wetting their beaks in this vast lake of public money. Consider that there are about six thousand charter schools in the United States. Yet a Google search for “charter school fraud” yields an astonishing 2,890,000 hits. “Charter school corruption” triggers another 1,850,000, and “charter school scandals” results in 1,060,000 more.
Maybe it will be worth the inevitable increase in fraud and corruption to gain the advantages charter schools offer. But research reveals that consistently superior academic results will not be one of them. Sure, some charters get better results than some traditional public schools—at least as measured by standardized tests. But some tradi tional public schools test better than some charter schools too. And when we compare overall test results for both type schools, there is no clear-cut winner.10 So whatever advantages the increase in charter schools offers, do not count on improved learning being one of them.
What, then, can we count on as charter schools proliferate? Well, if the past is prologue (and in this case it almost certainly is) we can count on a proportional increase in public corruption and cronyism and a brighter future for unemployed relatives of wellpositioned politicians, assorted bunko artists, flim-flam men, confidence tricksters, and defrocked storefront preachers.
For more on this in a free download of the New Foundations of Education Journal click here