Hedge Funders Love Charter Schools. Is That a Good Thing?

The New York Times "Sunday Styles" section ran a piece this weekend on how hedge fund managers are clamoring to unload some of their largess on...

The New York Times "Sunday Styles"

\nsection ran a piece this weekend on how hedge fund managers are clamoring to unload some of their largess on charter schools. The rationale (over hospital wings or museums): Charters run on data, such as test scores, and"… the tax-funded, independently run schools that they see as an entrepreneurial answer to the nation's education woes … appeal to the maverick instincts of many who run hedge funds."Cue Tina Fey (as Sarah Palin) saying: "We are not afraid to get mavericky in there and ruffle feathers and not got to allow that and also to the great Ronald Reagan."The article is light on stats that show the effectiveness of charter schools-after all this is a trend piece-though it does discuss the two conflicting studies that came out from two different groups of Stanford University researchers over the past two years. One study-which was associated with the Hoover Institution, a right-leaning think tank-found that New York City charter schools were more successful than its regular schools. (Only 30,000 of the roughly 1.1. million students schooled by New York City public schools attend charters.) The other concluded, according to the Times, that nationally, the picture was "muddier." (We sort of got into that last week-more here.)Over at the National Journal's Education Experts blog, a discussion is building (currently up to 13 responses) about whether President Obama's emphasis of charter schools in his Race to the Top program is worthwhile. The majority of respondents, including New York City Chancellor Joel Klein, offer an emphatic "yes!" There is, however, some dissent that points the finger at the fact that the finance industry is involved. NYU education professor Deborah Meier, who serves on the board of The Coalition of Essential Schools, notes that while she was initially excited by the prospect of charters, those who end up running these networks are not educators first."[M]ost of the charters were not started by people with any expertise in schooling, kids, teaching, curriculum etc--but only an expertise in making money (hedge funders and financial managers and business CEOs. … They ranged from do-good liberals in ideology, to longtime opponents of public education … The charters served some who saw it as a pure business opportunity. Others saw these ventures as part and parcel of their general opposition to public services versus the 'free market place' …"Is the negative sentiment a vestige of the bogeyman that big finance has become over the last couple years? Shouldn't we be happy that, as budgets are being slashed nationwide, someone is pouring money into our schools? Or, as Liz Willen at EarlyStories, the blog of the Hechinger Institute at Columbia's Teachers College asks: "… why are the money folks choosing charters instead of embracing some of the other struggling public schools[?]" If it's the data they're obsessed with, there's plenty of that thanks to No Child Left Behind.Image via

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