NY Times Lets a Charter School Propagandist Distort the Facts on Its Op-Ed Page

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By Jeff Bryant, the director of the Education Opportunity Network, a partnership effort of the Institute for America’s Future and the Opportunity to Learn Campaign. He has written extensively about public education policy. Originally published at Our Future

President Donald Trump’s adamant promotion of “school choice” and his selection of Betsy DeVos for education secretary have put advocates for charter schools in the Democratic party in a bind, and now they’re scrambling to keep the luster of the well-polished charter school brand unblemished.

Their latest tactic is to carefully distinguish charters from the system of school vouchers Trump and DeVos favor, but they serve this cause poorly by making erroneous claims about how the charter industry works in most communities and what these schools do to harm public education.

The latest misfire comes from David Leonhardt’s op-ed in Monday’s New York Times in which he takes on DeVos and her preference for vouchers while denigrating charter skeptics as people who need to get “an open mind.”

It’s a precarious tightrope Leonhardt attempts to walk, and he stumbles quite badly.

First, A Little Background

First, it’s important to understand the source of the school choice schism in the Democratic party goes back 25 years, Jeffrey Henig explains in Education Week, when proponents of school choice came up with two different ways to achieve their goals: school vouchers and charter schools.

While conservatives favored vouchers, which were a creation of free-market economist Milton Friedman, political centrists and some left-leaning people became infatuated with charters because they were birthed by “business-oriented moderates and technocrats” who became the predominant force in the Democratic party during Bill Clinton’s presidential administration.

Around the turn of the century, these two strains of school choice advocacy united after pro-voucher forces, largely funded by the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart fame), encountered a series of stinging defeats at the ballot box and a rising tide of anti-voucher sentiment among the general public.

Voucher advocates welcomed their union with charter school fans because it gave their cause a bipartisan aura and some support from the civil rights community. “Charter proponents … welcomed the political and philanthropic support of the pro-voucher forces,” Henig writes, because they needed rightwing leverage and money to undermine opposition coming from teachers’ unions and public school advocates.

For conservatives, the bipartisan unification for school choice established the slippery slope to potentially privatize public education. Moderate and lefty supporters of charter schools, on the other hand, got a Faustian bargain that gave them “education reformer” cred and the favor of Wall Street investors in exchange for colluding with the right wing.

With Trump and DeVos, the bargain Democrats made on charter schools has come due.

What Leonhardt Gets Wrong

So what’s a charter-loving Democrat to do? Based on what Leonhardt writes for the Times, many are choosing to re-up their support with false claims and deceptive rhetoric.

Leonhardt begins his column by calling attention to a new study showing the voucher program in the District of Columbia has had a negative impact on student achievement – a worthwhile news item to note for sure. But it becomes quickly apparent Leonhardt brings the subject up not to lambast DeVos but to miscast charter school skeptics as actors in a “caricature” debate over the fate of public education.

That’s a convenient strawman that leads him to state there are those who “conflate vouchers … with charter schools,” but he cites no credible sources to substantiate his belief that critics of DeVos and school choice are incapable of distinguishing between charters and vouchers.

Most concerning about Leonhardt’s column, though, is the many misleading statements he makes about how charter schools operate and what their impact is.

He cites a few credible studies showing positive impacts of charter schools on student achievement, but he doesn’t appear to have read credible reports that have found otherwise.

For instance, the most rigorous and most expensive study of charter school performance commissioned by the US Department of Education found no overall positive effect for charter schools.

A recent study of charter schools in Texas found charters overall have no positive impact on test scores and have a negative impact on earnings later in life.

So it’s totally misleading for Leonhardt to argue charters have “flourished” (whatever that means) when their track record is decidedly mixed at best.

Leonhardt then piles on one misleading statement after another.

His assertion that “charter-school systems are subject to rigorous evaluation and oversight” is counter factual to reports from the charter industry itself that show only about 3 percent of charter schools are closed for under-performing, and even those that are closed have operated an average of 6.2 years.

In Ohio, only one of 10 charter school students attend a school rated high performing.

In Michigan, charter schools score worse on national assessments, known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” than their traditional public-school counterparts, yet their numbers continue to expand every year.

In Louisiana, charter-school students perform worse than public schools on eighth-grade reading and math tests by enormous margins – 2 to 3 standard deviations.

And if you want to find out how charter schools spend the money they get from taxpayers, your job isn’t easy. Neither the federal government nor the states have created a place taxpayers can go to see how much in taxes these schools get and what they do with the cash, including what happens to real estate the schools purchase with the public’s money.

Leonhardt’s next howler is his assertion, “Local officials decide which charters can open and expand.” Actually, most often state boards or independent charter granting entities make the decisions to open and close charters, not local officials.

If you’re a local official in most states – including Arizona, Florida, California, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, – you have no idea if a charter school will pop up in your district and no control over what kind of students the charter will appeal to and how the charter will impact your budget.

In most states – including Florida, Tennessee, California, Illinois, Colorado, and Alabama – local officials who deny a charter application or seek to close a charter are frequently overruled by appointed boards set up by state officials whose political campaigns have been well supported by the charter school industry or its wealthy promoters.

The lack of local control endemic in charter school governance is by design. In its rankings of state legal statues governing charter schools, the charter industry lists “the existence of independent and/or multiple authorizers,” not local control, as a chief determiner of whether a state gets a top grade or not.

Leonhardt is wrong on this point as well: “Many charters are open to all comers.”

Numerous studies have found charters tend to serve lower percentages of students who have disabilities or whose first language isn’t English.

I’m sure Leonhardt can find an inclusive charter here or there, but the fact remains there are no regulatory or statutory requirements that prevent a charter school operator from saying to a family, “Your child isn’t a good fit for our school,” and any attempt to put those requirements onto charters would be fought tooth-and-nail by the charter industry and its powerful lobby.

Who Really Needs “An Open Mind”

Lastly, Leonhardt offers a “political compromise” of “fewer vouchers, more charters,” and he accuses anyone unwilling to take that deal of not having “an open mind.”

But expanding charters comes at a considerable cost to taxpayers as many of these schools continue to fleece the public coffers while traditional public schools lose vital resources.

According to the latest accounting of charter school fraud, waste, and mismanagement, conducted by the Center for Popular Democracy, public funding of charter schools has grown to $40 billion annually while oversight of these schools has languished. CPD has identified over $223 million in public fund misuse by charters but argues this is merely “the tip of the iceberg.” The total estimated loss may top $2.1 billion, CPD calculates.

As charters expand, the cost to public school systems is considerable, and many districts increasingly face financial insolvency as they lose students to these schools.

Maybe that’s a subject Leonhardt can open his mind to.

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  1. jackiebaass

    The NY Times isn’t alone on using Charter School propagandist. Almost all corporate media does the same. Rarely do you see anything from educational experts that have valid research to debunk the lies. I’ve watched discussions on C-Span several times concerning charters and educational reform. Just recently C-Span had a session about charter schools and the guest was the lawyer that represented a charter school friendly organization. He outright lied and wasn’t challenged about the lies by the moderator. It got so deep that I thought about putting on hip boots to keep out of the crap. The whole so called reform movement has nothing to do with improving education for all. It’s all about privatizing education in the US and world. Neoliberalism at work. What is at stake is the pot gold at the end of the privatization rainbow.

    1. Code Name D

      Indeed. Debunking research is notoriously hard to find – assuming it ever exists at all.

    2. nampa

      As someone who left a teaching career very early in it, the ‘reform’ was a major reason, massive budget cuts, high class sizes, principals acting as managers to escape the classroom.

      Another hammer is the general degree of student and family quality decline. Because of the destruction of the economy, those middle class people are no longer having kids. Refugees now make a large minority of inner city students. There are no longer textbooks, e-books or otherwise. With the smartboard, classes are almost cartoons, though the rote note taking seems to have survived. Families are so out of it, they push for smartphones in school for faux safety reasons.

  2. Doug

    It’s worth revisiting James Bennet’s recent justification/defense of hiring climate change denier Bret Stephens as a regular NYT Op-ed contributor:

    ““The crux of the question is whether (Stephens’) work belongs inside our boundaries for intelligent debate, and I have no doubt that it does,” Bennet told me. “I have no doubt he crosses our bar for intellectual honesty and fairness.”

    With David Leonhardt’s tarted up promotion of charters, we get to add yet one more example to Stephens’ work to better understand what Bennet characterizes as the NYT’s “bar for intellectual honesty and fairness”.

    Evidently, to Bennett, The Times, Leonhardt and Stephens, “intellectual honesty” does not include accurate, coherent or complete sharing of facts.

    The Times should rephrase its standard for purposes of clearly communicating what readers can expect. Instead of ‘intellectual honesty’, the more accurate description of the Times’ policy is ’emotional honesty’.

    As Rodney King may or may not have said, “Come on people. Can’t we all just get along?”

    For the Times and Bennet, the lesson of Trump’s election is clear: We all need to get along with other folks by being emotionally honest with one another. Facts be damned.

    1. Procopius

      If you haven’t realized that the Sulzberger family decided thirty years ago that becoming the nation’s stenographer of record would be more profitable than telling the truth you haven’t been paying attention. They are there to make money. Any incidental informing of the public is a side effect.

  3. UserFriendly

    I can’t say this is a subject I know all that much about, but the general impression I get of charter schools here in Minnesota is that they are reasonably well liked and managed. I think that in minneapolis at least parents have the option of sending their kids to any school in the district so they have used some charters / magnets (not sure if there is a difference there or not) to try and desegregate the schools.

    I don’t pay much attention to schools though so I could be totally wrong. I ask my friend, who is a parent, who to vote for with school board races and what not.

    Does anyone know off hand if their are some charter’s that are not as evil as others? Or is the whole thing just evil and I just haven’t been paying attention to the details?

    1. nycTerrierist

      I’d suggest googling ‘venture philanthropy and charter schools’.
      You’ll find ample background on charter schools and whose agenda they serve (hint: foundations like Walmart, Broad, Gates et al.)
      short summary: they replace education with testing and funnel public funds into private foundation coffers via sweetheart real estate deals.
      NC has covered this – perhaps a commenter can supply links to NC coverage?

      1. UserFriendly

        I know the broader charter project is evil, but I have also heard that it started off as a well intentioned idea that got hijacked, and I know that MN had the first charter schools. It’s not like it’s a pressing issue, I’m sure I could find out about it if I dug, I just thought I’d see if anyone had any off hand knowledge.

        1. ejf

          I know that in the ’90’s – can’t recall when – one or two charter schools in Mpls or St Paul got in BIG trouble with money and were forced to close. After that, I believe Minnesota had a pretty strong hand in regulating them. I haven’t heard much about Mpls or St Paul charters since. But then again I haven’t been in MN for some 10 years now.

          1. Procopius

            The so-called “education reformers” hijacked the name “charter schools” and changed the meaning to “private schools that get paid by the state from taxes.” Originally, the name “charter” meant “experimental.” They were granted a charter to operate, kind of like the Great East India Company. Monopoly, but intended as places which were allowed to violate some educational standards to test new unorthodox educational theories to see if there were better ways to teach. The current usage of “charter” does not mean that. They are not watched to see if their methods are better. They are simply granted charters to open schools which are not subject to the normal laws and regulations governing schools, including Generally Accepted Accounting Standards.

          2. nampa

            You are correct. Pinochet’s Chile was the model. Read “A Nation of Enemies” and its education chapter to understand the end game. In fact, the man responsible for those Chilean reforms, Jose, was invited by Governor Coumo to advise on education ‘reform.’

      2. flora

        Not forgetting Neil Bush and Mike Bloomberg. Unsurprising the NYT promotes anything that makes Wall St. money.

        ‘There’s gold in them thar students.’

        Thanks for this post.

        1. flora

          …pro-voucher forces, largely funded by the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart fame), encountered a series of stinging defeats at the ballot box and a rising tide of anti-voucher sentiment among the general public…..

          “For conservatives, the bipartisan unification for school choice established the slippery slope to potentially privatize public education. Moderate and lefty supporters of charter schools, on the other hand, got a Faustian bargain that gave them “education reformer” cred and the favor of Wall Street investors in exchange for colluding with the right wing.

          See: Aesop’s fable The Farmer and the Snake.

          Any wonder that Rahm called the left a bunch of idiots?

  4. Paul Hirschman

    Public education means all children are welcome to local schools. ALL. Public schools are “free and open to all.” They are run by residents elected by neighbors. It means schools are obligated to meet the needs of every student. Neither vouchers nor charters meet these basic criteria of being “free and open to all.” (And governed democratically.)

    What’s so damn hard for everyone to understand here? Vouchers and charters are attempts to avoid or deny “free education to all children.” Not some. All. Vouchers and charters are not required to withstand public scrutiny regarding how they operate. They are not required to keep every child in school NO MATTER WHAT, or to pay for homeschooling.

    Vouchers and charters select the students they want to educate, and they create methods of excluding kids they are not allowed to discriminate against out in the open. That’s not public education.

    Vouchers and charters are not required to teach the “hard cases.” Public schools are required to educate every child regardless of how difficult it may be to do so.

  5. jackiebass

    Magnets are a school within a school serving a special purpose and are operated by the school district. They could be called a lab school where new ideas can be tried and perhaps implemented if successful. Charters are funded by a school district but not operated by the school district. They can be operated by a for profit corporation or a so called non profit. States generally regulate charters so they are very different depending on the state. Some states carefully regulate and most states impose few or no regulations. In many states they are not accountable to anyone and become big money pits for the operators. Virtual charters or online charters are probably the worst and drain a lot of money from a school district while having a very poor track record. Research shows that very few charters do better than public schools and they are the ones that cherry pick who attends often getting rid of students that don’t fit in. A few do a as well as public schools and many charters do worse than public schools. I believe the money could be better spent on improving the public school system. A free public education for all is one of the basic things that made our country great. When our country was being settled a town usually had two things, a church and a school. Destroying our public school system would be destroying one thing that made our country great.

  6. Enquiring Mind

    When I hear about business-oriented moderates and technocrats my mind immediately recalls all those stories about Robert McNamara best and brightest and their handiwork. Hearing that in a prior era, a few might have reached for their guns, and now a lot more reach to hold onto what is left in their wallets.

  7. whiteylockmandoubled

    silly, silly lefties. THESE people are bad parents. THEY have failed to instill proper values in their children. Since THEY took over our cities beginning in the late sixties, look at what’s happened — they’ve become sinks of corruption. And the worst sinks are the Boards of Education, where THEY take their soft PhDs and meaningless education degrees, and pretend to an intellectual and moral rigor that THEY neither have nor are capable of achieving. Not THEIR fault really, because look where THEY came from, but it would be silly to imagine that THEY could actually educate their children out of poverty for another several generations.

    THEY clearly need the discipline and rigor that really smart normal Americans bring to it, we who understand the order that competition and market values bring to the process of the intellectual and moral development of children. THEIR children, by the way, need a far different kind of nurturing than ours do. THEIR environment is so utterly chaotic that uniforms, military style discipline, public shaming for not understanding something, very carefully calibrated withdrawal of carefully enumerated privileges for the slightest breach of the rules, an emphasis on keeping quiet because lord knows THEY run amok at home, and just, in general, very high expectations or you’re expelled, is the only way to remedy THEIR parents’ failure.

    Charters and vouchers both are vehicles to remove THEIR power over failing school systems and allow those who really understand these matters to give THEIR children a chance at a successful life.

    And make a lot of money.


    1. Robert Dannin

      amen! mr. bryant is splitting hairs. it’s always been about privatization. long before the waltons got involved charters were conceived as a more expedient political route on the path to vouchers. anyone who failed to grasp that reality needs to accept their tacit complicity with the white supremacists who organized resistance to the Brown v Board of Education ruling. known variously as the CCA (Conservative Citizens of America) and CCC (Conservative Citizens Councils), their strategy evolved as a scheme to demand public money to fund private and parochial alternatives to racially integrated education.

  8. CT

    Hmmmm….no mention of the BASIS charter schools who consistently rank in the top of all schools nation and world wide.

    1. Outis Philalithopoulos

      The focus of the post isn’t on single schools or single families of schools – this is true throughout the cited statistics.

      In any case, despite US News and World Report rankings, BASIS schools are fairly controversial; criticism often mentions low retention rates, intense focus on AP exams, and surprisingly high salaries for the founders.

      1. Kurtismayfield

        Even in the public schools there is a push for everyone to take AP. The AP has really been ratcheting up the propaganda in the past few years.

      2. Jeff Bryant

        Yep. More on how BASIS gets its “high performing” rating:
        Money graph:
        “A close look at BASIS provides insight into how charter schools can cherry-pick students, despite open enrollment laws. It also shows how through the use of management companies profits can be made — all hidden from public view.”

  9. Octopii

    Not sure why this is a surprise — the NYT and WaPo routinely have op-ed writers distorting facts and issues for the benefit of business interests against citizens.

  10. Scott

    The schools are hell for the students because ignorant people want more ignorance to prevail.
    The Trump era will be more of private prisons and more of public money given to those interested in making money off the school system which will send more students into the prisons.

  11. FiddlerHill

    I’ve posted before on my own positive experience in Los Angeles removing my daughter from our middle-class suburban independent school district and placing her in an LA Unified charter school. I was very involved in monitoring her charter school’s performance and operation for seven years. And while I found the founder-directors of the school autocratic and impervious to criticism or advice, the school did provide my child with significant benefits: much smaller class sizes, a more varied and challenging curriculum, and a more cohesive sense of community.

    She is now thriving academically, intellectually and socially in her first year at a major international university, and many of her classmates were accepted at similarly first rank schools (Brown, USC, Johns Hopkins, NYU, etc.) I find it counter-productive that so much criticism of charters dwells on the abuses of for-profit charters, when in fact they account for a small proportion of charters.

    “Charter schools choose their own management structure: 67 percent of all charter schools are independently run non-profit, single site schools; 20 percent are run by non-profit organizations that run more than one charter school; and just under 13 percent are run by for-profit companies.”


    This article by Jeff Bryant claims that local school boards in many states (including California) which deny an application for a charter school are “frequently” overruled by county or state authorities. I clicked on the link Bryant offered in support of that — and found no concrete evidence that that is true in California. I know the founders of my daughter’s charter school were turned down my our local school district 12 years ago and our local board has yet to approve a single charter school in a community of 200,000. Bryant’s link did lead me to a WaPo piece in which a columnist wrote:

    “Charter operators say that they want to provide school choice, but, apparently, they aren’t interested in letting local school boards in California decide what choices to offer in their own district.”

    First, the author confuses the wishes of the school board with the wishes of the residents. They’re often two different things, for two major reasons. The school board is being asked to voluntarily give up X thousands of dollars for every child they allow to leave the school system and attend a charter. And the local teachers’ union, with whom the local board must contend, has a vested interest in making sure the district retains as many students as possible so as to retain as many teaching positions as possible. There’s a money issue as important as the corrupt profits of for-profit charters.

    The long-term advantages or disadvantages of charters strikes me as an incredibly complex and difficult question to assess. And the sort of knee-jerk demonizing of them which I see in too much of the progressive press doesn’t help to trying to sort that out.

    1. Marina Bart

      You keep conflating your family’s positive experience with the system as a whole. In fact, the way these pernicious systems expand and steal from and corrupt the commons and the common good is by first offering something that the bourgeoisie can benefit from by using their social capital to their advantage. Your child getting a great experience from a charter is no more relevant to the overall systemic problem of charters than a customer using Uber in Manhattan in its early years and raving about how great the experience was for the price paid. The whole POINT of how Uber launched was to use massive VC funding to lure drivers with better wages temporarily while keeping customer prices low temporarily. Now, those skilled, professional drivers are starting to figure out they’ve been lied to, so they’re leaving, as the wages drop and the customer pricing is rising. So the customer experience is eroding. (And there’s also the rape, murder and data theft problems.) Uber does not have a sustainable business model. It was depending on being able to outrace existing regulatory systems to create a kind of monopoly. It doesn’t look like it will succeed, but if it did, the end result would not be a better ride-hailing experience for customers, and it would be extremely bad for drivers. But for Maureen Dowd, who raved about the joys of summoning what felt like a private servant for less than the price of a traditional taxi a couple years back, it was glorious.

      Like her with Uber, this rapacious and destructive charter system has been glorious for your family. Every child deserves a good and safe education, so I’m happy your child received one. But it would be helpful if privileged people like yourself could recognize that your anecdote does not in any way refute the critique of charters. In fact, it is is precisely how this process works. As with gentrification and many other economic phenomena, if you can game the process so that the middle and upper class temporarily benefits, you can entrench its predatory practices and break the social contract completely.

      You actually made the case here that charters are good because they have small class sizes, but teachers unions are bad because they want to protect jobs for teachers. How do you think you get small classes without more teachers? Perhaps teachers are not your enemy, and the world you inhabit might actually benefit with more people employed as teachers with the greater protections and benefits a union offers. Just a thought.

      1. FiddlerHill

        So I tried to correct some of the incorrect assumptions in this response in a reply which disappeared. I’ll try again.

        My post did not offer just my child’s anecdotal experience — but her positive experience in a charter may suggest that that whatever problem lie with charters, they may not be systemic.

        I have no idea why you have decided my family is “privileged” and that “middle and upper” families have gamed the system in establishing her school. The student body of my daughter’s charter is 65% Hispanic, 26% White, 7% Black and 6% Asian. Sixty-Five percent are “low income” and qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches.

        I do not blame my local teachers’ union for wanting to protect their jobs. They and we residents have common cause against a school board that continually balances its budget my increasing class size, now averaging 40. I taught at a public high school for several years and know exactly how difficult that makes a teacher’s job.

  12. screen screamer

    I’ve posted on this subject matter before. In our district, locally, the school board went on a building binge about ten years ago despite enrollment numbers that did not support the entire process.
    Indeed, the state and federal government disliked the idea so much that for one project, a high school, that the local board received no funding whatsoever from these entities. Instead the local tax payer footed the bill for an amount approaching $100,000,000. Not small change for our county. Ten years later, the board decided to close one of these brand new schools which now stands empty in honor of the stupidity of our local BOE.
    Teachers have been let go, communities changed and indeed in the events leading up to the closings of several schools, communities were heckling each other in meetings and shouting obscenities once outside the building.
    All done by the local BOE who wield political clout and have wasted an enormous amount of money. Given this background, is it any wonder people are weary of the locals whose job it was to protect the investment in public schooling in such a careless manner.
    When these types of actions are taken against the proletariat, what would be the natural outcome?

    1. flora

      Ten years ago housing prices were rising and the tax base for local schools expanding. Then something happened: the housing crash and financial crisis. Austerity. Reduced tax revenues. It hit a lot of districts hard. Your description without the larger context fails to prove anything more than so much was spent then and now some of that expense looks to have been over expansion, in light of the financial crash that hit in 2008-9.

      I still remember Bernanke giving testimony in 2007 before Congress saying there was no housing bubble and low down payment without requiring mortgage insurance didn’t indicate a problem. If the Fed Chair is assuring Congress and the country that all is well it’s not surprising local BOEs would think expansion is a sound plan. Lots of communities got fooled by the the Fed’s pronouncements and expanded right before the Great Financial Crash hit.

  13. screen screamer

    Before building the high school that is in reference, the BOE was advised by both state and federal governments that no money was forthcoming for the project. That if they were to proceed with said project, that they were on their own.
    The population numbers that were presented at the time did not meet state and federal requirements for aid for this project. The BOE went ahead with the project on their own and sold bonds for the school to be built.
    This was a grift in which a small sub set of people made a fortune at the tax payers expense. The public school systems are political structures that take and spend an enormous amount of money on projects that are indeed wasteful.

  14. Dan F.

    There is a massive empirical example relevant to discussions of charter schools that ought to be examined more: the educational system in Spain.

    I’ll discuss briefly the situation in the Comunidad de Madrid, which is what I know best (in Spain, primary education is a competency of the Comunidades (= States)). The system comprises public schools, concertados, and private schools. Private schools are private in the usual (US) sense. Concertados are private schools that receive public funding. Public schools are public in the usual (US) sense, though with comparatively less funding. The concertado system exists because when the Franco regime ended there was no public education, all education being conducted by schools affiliated with the Catholic church. The concertado system came into existence as a way of incorporating these existing schools into the system without having to face up to their religious character. Currently, however there are new concertados, often built with public money, that have no direct religious affilitation. No one of these three branches has a majority of the students at the primary level.

    My own sense is that the concertado system hurts the public system directly, diverting resources from it, and debasing what is meant by public education, but I don’t know enough (in a scholarly sense) to say anything definitive that’s not easily criticized as anecdotal. Nonetheless, there are clear parallels with the charter school debate in the US, and there should be sufficient data to examine comparatively (the system is well implanted). The principal actors and their ostensible motivations are quite different, the legal context is very different, and yet the structures that emerge and the interplay between them seems quite similar. Public schools experience a ghettoization effect. The immigrant, lower income, and special needs populations are concentrated in them. The middle class (what remains of it) moves its kids into concertados but still feels itself socialist/progressive. Public schools are fiscally at a disadvantage because their more qualified teachers are paid at higher civil servant salaries and the capital costs of their instalations are figured into their budgets (this does not always occur with the concertados). New public spending is directed at concertados to the detriment of public schools. The decrepit instalations of public schools are used to criticize them as are the higher salaries of their more qualified yet understaffed teaching staffs.

  15. Procopius

    So it’s totally misleading for Leonhardt to argue charters have “flourished” (whatever that means)

    I don’t see why you say this. What flourished means is they have sprung up everywhere like weeds, or like crops in a good growing season. Synonym, thrived. Have there been lots of new, unregulated, unsupervised “charter” schools in the last few years? I would say the answer is yes, so “charter” schools have thrived or flourished. Lots of their owners have made a lot of money and they have undermined the public schools in many places, so their supporters are achieving their goal. I’d say that’s flourishing. Has nothing to do with raising test scores or improving lifetime performance. They do not think one of the purposes of education is to provide people with tools to have better lives.

  16. JoseM

    Why all this crazy concentration on the form of the schools? If you have a charter school or a public school run by altruistic, competent individuals, students will do well. If you have a charter school or public school run by greedy, self-serving individuals, students will suffer. The focus on type of school ignores the important issue of how do you get the right people into management and teaching positions within the school. Those who are greedy and self-serving would love to have all the controversy about some structural issues instead of what is important and crucial for the students’ futures.

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