Newsweek's Raina Kelley, self-described "teacher's pet" and the wife of a Brooklyn middle school teacher, dissects the charter school debate, by looking at one of the key issues that charter school proponents hammer on in promoting the public/private hybrid schools: teacher quality.
She says that charter school boosters are targeting the powerful teachers unions by impugning the reputations of the entire profession, which is made up largely of dedicated workers who invest their time in the children in their classrooms.
I’m very grateful that schools like [Harlem Children's Zone] have proven that the achievement gap between urban students and their suburban counterparts can be closed. But I do not support using their existence to demonize teachers. For the vast majority of public-school teachers, so much of their job is out of their control that asking them to be held accountable for their students’ performance is tantamount to blaming car salesmen for Toyota’s accelerator problems.
Her arguments are probably not going to strike anyone who has delved into this debate as new, but she makes a point that got me thinking (once again) that we're about to see an unstoppable proliferation of charters in the near future.
Kelley notes that 4,400 public school teachers in New York City alone are about to get the ax due to budget constrictions. However, none of these cuts will affect charter schools. Already, charter schools get the same amount of money per student as normal public schools—and then they get plenty more from private benefactors.
So, once the traditional public schools have suffered massive layoffs (of bright, young, excited teachers, since the cuts will be based on seniority) and are still getting the same amount of money per student as charters—which will be fully staffed and still getting their supplemental income from donors—it will be hard for them to compete. Thus, the charters will begin to point to their methodologies and nonunion teachers as better instruments of instruction than those used at cash-strapped, understaffed public schools. And that will no doubt propel the formation of new charter schools.
Was the economic downturn the best thing to happen to the charter school movement?