Shoddy Studies

By Larry Sand
December 12, 2017

Flawed reports aside, charters – schools of choice – are flourishing. 

As I wrote last week, too many government-run schools are failing and the future for them, collectively, is not rosy. But the monopolists running our traditional public schools (TPS), in addition to blaming lack of funding, have been busy lashing out at charter schools, which are decentralized and give parents a right to choose where to educate their kids.

The latest “proof” that the threatened monopolists present us with are three charter school “studies.”

A flawed report released in the spring by In the Public Interest, a far left policy outfit, was named “The Failure of Policy Planning in California’s Charter School Facility Funding.” Other than the title’s rather prodigious use of alliteration, this is an inglorious nothing-burger. The report alleges a series of fiscal misdeeds by charters, which the California Charter School Association easily debunks here. For example, ITPI claims that charters are spending too much on facilities. But charters would spend a lot less if their TPS brothers would obey the law. Proposition 39 requires that school districts make facilities available to all charter schools operating in their school district, and that those facilities must be reasonably equivalent to other classrooms, buildings, or facilities in the district. But with teachers unions leading the charge, many school districts across the state still fail to allocate space equitably to charters.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the National Education Association gleefully proclaimed that “the charter school experiment has ‘failed,’ concludes national investigation.” The charter-bashing report, compiled by the Network for Public Education, whose leadership includes such teacher union acolytes as Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, et al, has become a yearly event for the progressive reactionary TPS monopoly crew. The only hope NPE holds for charter schools is that they become just like the TPS that so many parents are trying to escape. I’m sure the parents of the 3 million or so kids now enrolled in charters and another million who languish on wait-lists would heartily disagree with NPE. In fact, in 208 districts across the country, at least 10 percent of public-school students attended a charter last school year.

But easily the winner in the dumb-report-of-the-year category is an “analysis” by the Associated Press. Just last week, AP informed the country that “US charter schools put growing numbers in racial isolation.” Just one of the many egregious assertions, which appears throughout the report, is that charters are “segregated,” which is a patent lie. Segregation is forced separation. No charter in the country has adopted an apartheid policy. Parents of all races send their kids to these schools voluntarily. The more popular ones hold a colorblind lottery to determine admission.

It’s not hard to understand why many charter schools have a majority minority population. It’s simply because the schools of choice flourish in areas that have failing TPS, which are usually in our inner cities. Black parents who are wait-listed to get into one of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies are hardly lamenting the fact that their kids may not get to go to school with a bunch of white kids. They are desperately hoping that one day they will get a winning lottery number. Period.

Education reformers’ responses to the AP analysis were quick and pointed. Democrats for Education Reform President Shavar Jeffries wrote that AP “ignores the blatantly obvious fact that charter schools are concentrated in neighborhoods with high proportions of students of color to provide them an alternative to the low-performing traditional public schools they previously had no choice but to attend.”

“There are so many shades of wrong coming out of this AP story, but the most egregious act committed is the attack on black and brown parents. The article shames them for doing what every white and wealthy parent in America does—selecting the best educational situation for their babies,” said Vesia Wilson-Hawkins, a Nashville, TN parent and activist.

Howard Fuller, civil rights activist and veteran education reform advocate, tweeted, “The issue for low income Black children is how to get an effective education. I don’t oppose integration. I support excellent education for poor Black children wherever they can find it. Blaming charter schools for the lack of integration is bogus.”

Perhaps the Center for Education Reform said it best. “It’s a stunningly irresponsible piece of journalism that took extremely complex data and tried to simplify a picture of more than 7,000 schools in thousands of communities in 43 states whose laws are as different as snowflakes in where and how they permit charter schools. It’s shocking, especially when more than 50 percent of students in traditional public schools lack proficiency and charter schools are providing children of greatest need with the only choices they’ve ever had.”

About the only defense of the AP report came from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who asserted in a tweet that the article offered “damning” evidence against charter schools, which are mostly non-unionized.

Damning? Your desperation, Randi, is palpable.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.