Charter schools aren’t public schools let me count the ways

They, people who like charter schools and who want to speed
up their proliferation, always say; charter schools are public schools. They
say this not because it is true but because they think this will ease the mind
of the community as they seek to privatize public education. Well friends’
charter schools are not public schools and let me count the ways.

Many in the Florida Legislature are looking to exempt
charter schools from the Student Success act. In case you don’t now the SSA
ended tenure like protections, said 50% of teacher evaluations had to be based
on test scores, and called for but didn’t fund merit pay. Rep. George
Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale while attempting to have his cake and eat it too,
said in the Orlando Sentinel that the law “was never meant to cover charters.”
He said that because charter school teachers are all “at will” employees —
without the tenure-like protections that some traditional school employees
enjoy — the law wasn’t mean to govern their work. (1)
However if you are following along, something the
representative obviously hasn’t been doing, the SSA ended tenure like
protections. Then senate president Don Geatz said, when talking about exempting
charter school teachers’ not public school teachers from the odious Student
Success act,
“I’ve been in business for thirty years. I’ve never asked for
an even playing field, you can’t make everything equal.”  (2)
This is what National
Alliance for Public Charter Schools says about them on its Web site: Charter
schools are always public schools. They never charge tuition, and they accept
any student who wants to attend. Charter laws require that students are
admitted by a random lottery drawing in cases too many students want to enroll
in a single charter school. Charter schools must also meet the state and
federal academic requirements that apply to all public schools.
Recent studies however have shown charter
schools despite claiming to be the bastions of fairness often pick and choose
whom they keep. 
Reuters just did a comprehensive piece
showing how many charter schools prohibit, ESOL students, poor academic
performers and students whose parents are involved less than they like. (3)
Then State Impact reports how charter schools exclude disabled students saying,
m
ore than 86 percent of the charter schools do not serve a single child
with a severe disability – compared to more than half of district schools which
do. That in Duval County, just one student enrolled in a charter school has a
severe disability. Duval district schools educate more than 1,000
severely-disabled students. There’s not a single child with a severe disability
in charter schools in Pinellas County, the nation’s 24th-largest school
district and finally the majority of charter school students with severe
disabilities are concentrated in a handful of schools that specialize in those
disabilities, often autism. (4)
Public schools are required
to try and educate every student who shows up on the doorstep whether they be
disabled, speak a different language, be less than academically inclined, have
frequent discipline problems or parents who are absentee or not. If charter
schools were public schools should they not be required to do the same?
Charter schools also get rid
of kids at a faster and far greater rate than public schools do.
All schools have some degree of mobility but the study
reports essentially no overall attrition from the regular public schools.
Expulsion undoubtedly counts for some of the charter school losses but low
performing kids being counseled out also undoubtedly play a role as well.
Public schools not charter schools take all the kids that show up at their
doors and do their best to educate them. (5)
Furthermore charter schools don’t have the same financial
accountability measures and this has led to massive malfeasance. Leslie Postal
wrote in the Orlando Sentinel,
According to an August report by the state
auditor general, a third of state charter schools had accounting problems,
legal violations or other problems in their 2011 audits. One third!!! Could you
imagine if one third of public schools came back with the same type of report?
The state legislature would be even more off with their heads than they are
now. This is also the same industry that allowed the operator of a failed
charter school to take home 890,000 dollars over a two-year period. (6) To give
you some scale the Duval county School Superintendent who oversees some 170
schools, 14,000 employees and a billion dollar plus budget makes 275,000
dollars.   
Then some people might say, so what to
all this. The long waiting lists for charter schools prove the public wants
them. Well friends even that’s a lie. 
Miami Dade official Iraida
Mendez-Cartaya testified in front of the Florida legislature, pointing out that
in her district, students are likely to appear on more than one waiting list –
an obvious reason for such inflated numbers. (7)
Finally don’t
even get me started about how study after study says charter schools don’t
perform any better than their public school counterparts. 
At the end of
the day they don’t follow the same laws, they don’t have the same admission
standards, they get rid of students that public schools wouldn’t and they don’t
have financial accountability. How could anybody possibly mistake a charter
school for a public school and it is high time we stopped referring to them
thusly. 
I have no doubt there are some fine
charter schools, where kids are getting a wonderful education. The problem is
this rush to privatize has created too great of an opportunity for charlatans
and corporations looking to make a buck. Charter schools as parent teacher
driven laboratories have a role to play in education. Charter schools as a
replacement for public schools do both the children that attend them and the
public that finances them a disservice.  
Charter schools are not public schools
and the only reason people like Jeb Bush and Don Geatz says they are is because
it gives their privatization agenda some cover. It is time we woke up and said
enough, not enough is enough because there are two many poor performing charter
schools out there and that should be closed but simply, enough.

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