Last night the report from the AFT convention was that Hillary Clinton once again spoke about how charter schools provided traditional public schools with innovation. This is a recurring theme with her—one that has already drawn boos from teachers in the NEA. As one teacher put it last night, is she tone deaf?
Charter schools are responsible for shutting down hundreds of schools. They don’t do anything particularly innovative, or if they do it is because they are given the luxury of having smaller classes or special circumstances which are not afforded real public schools. But charter chains often don’t do better on tests than traditional public schools.
And I know of nothing unique that charter schools do that would qualify as innovative.
So many educators and parents know this that it is an embarrassment, really, that Clinton still clings to this mantra of charter innovation. Is it because of her connection to corporate heads who now direct how schools should run?
Education Week recently compared the education platforms of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Under “choice,” they mention that Hillary Clinton upset some charter advocates last fall when she stated that they didn’t serve all students.
The Wall Street Journal reported that one education reformer troubled by her comments was was Eli Broad. Broad is currently on the move to make all Los Angeles public schools charters. And it is stated that he threatened to withdraw campaign funding if Hillary Clinton didn’t retract her claim—which she did.
Clinton has also supported what she quantifies as high quality charter schools highlighted in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Many realized that ESSA was just an extension No Child Left Behind. Many believe it is a giveaway to charter schools.
And while Clinton notes that vouchers are bad and might go to “jihad” schools (again Education Week), we hear nothing about charter schools with all kinds of questionable connections.
Consider the concerns having to do with Gulen Charter Schools whose leader, Fethullah Gülen, was connected to the uprising in Turkey. Many of these charter schools are under a different name, so it is not easy for parents to know which charters are Gulen charters.
Charter schools are no better than vouchers. In fact, they are worse because so many school districts have been pushed to embrace them and they are not properly vetted for parents to know whether they work or not.
And as far as Donald Trump…his education platform is so sketchy it is hard to know what he thinks of charter schools if he thinks about them at all!
He has stated he likes local charter schools. But charter schools are not local in the true sense of the word especially when they are run by private companies. It no longer matters if they put the word “public” in front of the name.
As far as innovation, this is what I wrote last November.
After all the years of charter schools here is what I see.
- They have longer school days.
- Charter schools often have teachers who are at the mercy of the charter operator.
- Charter school teachers don’t always have real teaching degrees or credentials.
- Charter schools often use strict discipline.
- Parents must sign contracts to do what the school administrators or teachers tell them they must do.
- Charter schools counsel out special needs students.
- Charter schools counsel out ELL students.
- Charter schools kick out students who act out or whose parents don’t follow the contract.
- Charter operators usually make more money than a school principal.
- Teachers usually make less money than when they worked in traditional public schools.
- Teachers often get fewer benefits than when they worked in traditional public schools.
- Sometimes these schools shut down when they fail, but not always.
- Charter schools are usually segregated schools.
Both candidates need to pay closer attention to the will of the people on this issue. Social media makes this election different from elections in the past. More people are paying attention and expect to see real education issues addressed fairly.
Pretending charter schools are something they aren’t just won’t work for either candidate. Teachers and parents are tired of myths.
Bailey, Nancy. Losing America’s Schools: The Fight to Reclaim Public Education (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016): 35-51.
Meckler, Laura. “Clinton Views on Charter Schools, Teacher Evaluations Upset Some Democrats.” The Wall Street Journal. Dec. 17, 2015.