Can We Stop Getting Distracted By Charters?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Is the charter school nonsense over yet? 

It’s probably too much to hope that the new law that puts new restrictions on charter schools will end the scapegoating of charter schools. 

Over the past couple years, teachers’ unions have deflected criticism of the schools by blaming charters. 

This blame is baloney. It blames the problems of California’s schools on charters, which educate barely 10 percent of all students. The blame game also suggests charters are somehow private entities; they aren’t—they are public schools. 

Some charters do well. Others don’t. The virtue of charters is that the bad ones can be relatively easy shut down. Try shutting down a failing neighborhood school or, even worse, a failing school district. 

Charters, of course, aren’t responsible for falling public school enrollments—lower birth rates and the decline of immigration account for that. And charters aren’t responsible for the huge increase in retirement and benefit costs that are gobbling up school budgets. 

Now, charters have been put in their place. There are stricter rules for credentialing charter school teachers, rules that make it easier to reject new charters, and a moratorium on online charter schools. 

Can California and its schools’ officials now stop deflecting and address the actual problems of our districts and schools?

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