Charters as a Step to True Government Monopoly

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For a year or more, my fellow conservatives have looked at me a bit funny when I’ve suggested that maybe we shouldn’t see charter schools as part of our school choice movement.  If you look past intentions and the first-order effects of charter school proliferation and take into account other forces in public education, observing what’s actually happening, you can easily foresee a future in which we discover that charter schools were simply a stepping stone to a total government monopoly of education, rather than just the near-monopoly that we have now.

First, we find it is impossible to break the insider-labor-union grip that’s preventing public schools from fulfilling their mission.  Second, charter schools act as a school choice opportunity with full public school–level funding (which is much higher than most private school options in the state).  Third, non-elite private schools go out of business because they can’t compete with charters’ free-to-parents price point.  Fourth, once charters have killed the private school market in the state, the insider-labor-union forces flex their muscles and absorb the charters back into the education blob.

A Linda Borg article in today’s Providence Journal suggests that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence — the state’s single largest operator of private schools, most of them in the affordable range — sees the threat of step 3 and isn’t interested in playing along.  The diocese has opted not to extend a lease with Blackstone Valley Prep, the largest network of charter schools.

Charter supporters claim there’s no evidence that they’re poaching students from private schools, despite the striking parallel of the numbers, but they ignore the complexity of human decisions.  As contrary evidence, Blackstone Valley director of external affairs Jennifer LoPiccolo notes that “the vast majority of their students are enrolled in kindergarten, not the later grades” (in Borg’s paraphrase), so kids leaving Catholic schools can’t be transferring.  But take a bunch of kindergarten kids out of a private school, and its tuition has to go up, pushing parents out.  Some of their children will win the charter-school lottery, but most will simply lose their choice and return to district public schools.  When the Catholic school ultimately closes its doors, that scenario plays out across its entire student body.

From a small-government, free-market perspective, one would have difficulty coming up with a better example of government’s using its ability to regulate, legislate, and direct near-limitless public resources to its preferred providers (mainly its own) than charter schools.  Still, somehow, I’ve already had heated arguments about, for example, H7067, which would remove the unfunded mandate that local property taxpayers must provide big funding to charter schools.  In my assessment, that would be a good, positive change consistent with conservative principles.  Local taxpayers have next to zero input when it comes to charter schools, so they should have some say about whether or to what extent they want to fund them.

Whatever one’s political persuasion, Rhode Islanders need to give some fresh consideration to charters.



  • Joe Smith

    I applaud the Bishop for being open and frank; however, in the article, Borg writes “Ferris (Daniel Ferris, superintendent of Catholic schools) said he doesn’t have a “beef” with charter schools but said they have drifted from their original mission: to provide choice to public school students in struggling schools.

    BVP High School, according to RIDE census data, has 71% free/reduced lunch and 69% minority population (although which high school the students would have gone to is not researched to qualify “struggling schools”). So I’m not sure how applicable Ferris’ point is specifically with BVP High School, but your point is correct in that children who might have started

    I wish Ferris would have been more vocal in the past about charters like Compass School (96% white, under 10% Free/reduced lunch) or Kingston Hill Academy (only 17% FRL) that pull kids away from schools like Monsignor Clarke in Southern RI – and the sibling policy that only reinforces that trend.

    “Local taxpayers have next to zero input when it comes to charter schools, so they should have some say about whether or to what extent they want to fund them.” I find it amazing that “conservatives” who rant about local control, transparency, and cronyism are silent on charter schools that take in millions of dollars with little to no oversight (especially when RIDE is run by an ideologically driven commissioner), no transparency,

  • Mike678

    “First, we find it is impossible to break the insider-labor-union grip that’s preventing public schools from fulfilling their mission. Second, charter schools act as a school choice opportunity with full public school–level funding (which is much higher than most private school options in the state). Third, non-elite private schools go out of business because they can’t compete with charters’ free-to-parents price point.”

    To your first point, charters are often–if not wholly–non-union, thus are helping–through example, to break the union stranglehold on education. Secondly, they get public school funding–which I agree is too high all around– because Charters supply the facilities–they aren’t provided by cities and towns (usually debt (bond) funded)) as are the traditional public schools. Third, you may be right–but adapt or go out of business. Life isn’t fair. Your argument;s foundation is based on assumptions.

    As for Joe’s complaints about Kingston Hill and Compass school student makeup, did anyone bother to look where these schools are located? They are in middle/upper middle class neighborhoods, approximately 97% Caucasian (RI is ~86%). So little wonder that the schools ethnic makeup is as the charters draw significant numbers from the local community.

    Charters also have Charters–their goals and objectives are fairly clear, so the “transparency” argument is specious. Has anyone bothered to research the RI charter experiment? They trade less oversight for performance; they perform or the charter is revoked. Are public schools that accountable for performance?

    As for taxpayer say, LOL. How much say do taxpayers have in public school budgets? Most school committee people I know (a few, I admit) think their job is to maximize the school budget. Couple that with voter apathy and you have one reason for bloated teacher salaries and low educational performance.

    • Justin Katz

      Your blithe assertion that private schools should adapt to government hegemony or go out of business goes against everything this country was supposed to stand for. There is no industry that can compete with the government if it decides to take it over by law and by taxation.

      So, given your understanding of Rhode Island apathy and also a culture that’s changing (with government prodding, I’d say) to accept increased dependence on government and less familial independence, which of these scenarios do you believe to be more likely:

      1) Charters continue to expand a little at a time, with the understanding that they do a little bit better than district schools, and that small example causes a transformative rethinking that topples the teachers unions, which are among the most powerful political entities in the state, or
      2) Charters’ gradual expansion tightens the noose on all private schools below a price point that only the very wealthy can afford, putting them out of business (while leading motivated parents whose children aren’t lucky enough to win the charter lottery to move out of state), and then those powerful political entities edge into the charters and, at the very least, diminish their effectiveness, with absolutely no competition anywhere in the state?

      • Mike678

        It is more than an assertion–it is reality. Find a way (adapt) or die. If you can’t make it–can’t convince the voters–then you go the way of the Dodo. I’m not saying that it’s fair, but it is a fact.
        Today, charters give the taxpayer a choice that private schools often can’t–a better alternative to the status-quo for those parents who care about their children yet can’t afford private education. Why would you take that reality away based on something that ‘might happen’ years down the road? Vouchers could fix that funding problem, but again we are back to moving an apathetic public and a state gov’t filled with retired union members and/or their spouses and a plethora of lawyers sucking at the public sector union funded mammary.

        So I can’t support your position on this issue; I can’t destroy the one venue these caring parents have today. A better question might be why are there Charters at all in RI? Are they little more than a safety valve to stop caring parents from complaining/organizing? Because I really doubt it is a nefarious plot by our leadership to destroy private schools…these people just aren’t that bright. Or could it be that our elites are beginning to understand that we can’t afford unions? That middle class flight is dooming this state and that that public sector unions need to start heading for the door? Wait and see how the Supreme Court rules on compulsory public sector union dues…that may be yet another indicator. If they rule as I think they will, then option number 1 may be closer to reality.

        Have a great evening…

        • Justin Katz

          Curious box you’re trying to put me in (probably unintentionally). I point out a plausible consequence and unfairness of the charter school movement, and you say, “Hey, deal with it.” But pointing such things out is part of “convincing the voters,” which you now credit as legitimate.
          As for your suggestion about who charter schools help, I’m suspicious. I suspect Ed Fitzpatrick, for example, could afford private school if his child hadn’t won the charter lottery. Next, there’s a balance that we’d have to estimate. If the number of students who luck into charters reaches a point that starts pricing private schools out of reach or closing them, the question becomes whether a small group of charter lottery winners effectively removed the opportunity for choice from a larger number of borderline private school payers. Charters may be the only choice for many parents, but you’d have to make the case that the great majority of them couldn’t afford some tuition, with aid, for lower-cost private schools.
          As to the “nefarious plot” point, Rhode Island didn’t invent charters, so it’s possible some national-stage pointy heads came up with the plot, or it’s possible that the market capture is simply a function of the invisible hand of self interest.

          • Mike678

            Convincing the voters has always been legitimate–it’s often referred to as leadership. Convincing the apathetic and/or uninformed RI electorate (a slight over-generalization)–that is a different matter and subject.

            But I think you mistake my argument, which I thought rather clear. Keep the Charters as they serve a purpose today–don’t eliminate them because you fear what might happen in the future. You argument above is more nuanced; you are essentially arguing that those parents who can afford private school yet choose charters should not as they are taking a slot that could be used by a more needy family. They should, instead pay more and go to private school? Perhaps I misinterpret, but if so, that argument smacks of class warfare/redistribution. Why should those that succeed–and pay more in taxes–have less choice? Morally I agree, but our morals are not law. Perhaps the solution isn’t to limit, but to expand opportunities for choice?

            I agree with you on most points, but on this point no. Charters, being non-union and performance oriented, are IMHO are similar to private schools (non-union, pay their own capital costs, small administration costs, etc.) and offer parents a choice–all parents, not just a select few or by economic/ethnic class. The objective of school is education, and today, whether Charter or private, the vast majority of these schools meet that objective.

            Yes, your fear that the Charters may reduce the number of private schools and eventually create a union monopoly is possible. But that possibility is years if not decades away and we can deal with that if it rears its ugly head. But today, parents have a choice and many children are being educated in an environment that allows them to learn. That, I think we all agree, is a good thing.

          • OceanStateCurrent

            You wrote: “charters give the taxpayer a choice that private schools often can’t–a better alternative to the status-quo for those parents who care about their children yet can’t afford private education.” While that’s certainly true in premise, I challenged the notion that it’s what happens in practice. So now I’m the one saying things that “smack of class warfare/redistribution”? That whiplash-inducing turnaround makes me think perhaps your stated rationale for charters isn’t quite your actual rationale for charters.
            This overstates my thinking, but I’m trying to find some solid ground on which we can have our exchange of ideas: If charter schools in large part redistribute public money from property taxpayers of all income levels through an unfunded state mandate to parents who could afford private school if they were required to prioritize their children’s education in their household budgets, is that still defensible as “choice”? In those cases, you’re not really increasing choice for students (because their parents could have chosen private schools), and you’re not increasing the competition and pressure on unions (because those chosen private schools would also apply that pressure).
            Now expand on that thought: If the students who jump over to charters from private schools because taxpayers are forced to foot the bill drive up the price of private schools, then low-, working-, and lower-middle-class children lose their choice and wind up in substandard, unionized district public schools. I’m not sure how to quantify the scenarios, but it’s at least conceivable that charter schools are entirely a wash when it comes to giving parents a choice that leads to children “being educated in an environment that allows them to learn.”
            If I had to bet, at this point, I’d wager charters are actually reducing choice, in these terms, right now… not some time in the future. Some time in the future is when they entirely kill off affordable private education and hand the government a total monopoly. But you act as if the possibility is entirely immaterial even if true.

          • OceanStateCurrent

            And let’s be clear. I’m in no way saying we should ban charter schools. At most, I’m suggesting that we should reevaluate some of our assumptions, like whether local property taxpayers should be forced to fund them, with no say. As you suggested earlier, if charter schools can’t adapt to that reality, then they should go out of business, right?

          • Mike678

            Agreed..adapt or fail goes both ways. I am not clear why you feel I am a fan of redistribution or quotas. Can you can please refer me to that sentence because I am not a fan of either. Perhaps your/my assumptions (lens) are causing the disconnect. At the risk of beating a dead horse, can we agree to the following?

            We pay for the education (k-12) for all RI students enrolled in public schools.

            Students, in general, can only go to schools in their town/city and so forth. If the school is not acceptable to the parent, that parent can move, send the child to a Private school, or accept the status quo.

            Options one and two cost $. If the parents chose private school, they essentially are paying twice for education. Option three has a different cost.

            Many support vouchers so they can have a choice to send thir child to a better school at less personal cost. Not currently possible in RI.

            Charters are public schools, yet different than traditional public schools. Non-Union, less administration, pay their own CIP and infrastructure and get the per-student money that would have gone to the traditional school. They trade, according to the law, oversight/regulation for better performance. (Whether or not they accomplish this, or if the law is enforced, is a separate issue. Or if we wish to make it an issue, that issue also applies to the traditional public schools).

            Charters are now an option for many parents, for whatever reason, don’t think their neighborhood school is meeting need. Some may have been paying private schools and now have another, less costly option.

            Cost is not the only reason parents send their children to private schools. Religious, status, tradition…and others…play a role.

            Charters are but one factor in declining private school enrollment. A population faced with higher taxes/ lower income, perhaps less religious, changing demographics all play a part.

            Charters can cost districts more as desks in the more costly traditional public schools may be going unfilled.

            So far, so good?

          • OceanStateCurrent

            You’ve lost me. I’ve only responded to things you’ve said, directly quoting them above. I don’t see where I suggested you’re “a fan of redistribution or quotas.”

          • Mike678

            “So now I’m the one saying things that “smack of class warfare/redistribution”? That whiplash-inducing turnaround makes me think perhaps your stated rationale for charters isn’t quite your actual rationale for charters.”

            How else do you read this? The inference is clear.

            Btw, I knowyou are busy. That said, it is tough to, as you say, to find solid ground unless one states and/or clarifies their ingoing assumptions and/or biases. The terms used…suspicion, wager, and so forth, are indicators that we have entered the fact-free opinion zone, where anything goes. Castles made of sand… Not productive, so best to leave it. I agree that charters can compete with private schools. I am of the opinion that the gain to students is worth the risk. the more positive side, we agree that the union controlled public school system is dysfunctional and pricey.

            Off to clear the driveway. Have a great day.

          • OceanStateCurrent

            You raised charters as a way to offer choice to people who couldn’t afford it. I noted that there are conflicting effects. The whiplash is because you’re the one who raised the issue, not me. I’m not hazarding to guess what your unstated rationale for charters might be, but simply saying that you stated A and then, when I argued the point, attacked me for venturing into the realm of A. That suggests you’re not as concerned about A as about something that arguing A might facilitate.
            I disagree on your assessment of the discussion. The fact that one doesn’t have total facts on an issue of policy (because we’re trying to assess effects in the future) does not mean the discussion is in a “fact-free opinion zone.” We have some facts, and we can infer others and speculate about still more in order to develop some sense of the relative likelihood of outcomes. This process has to happened for informed policy discussion; we’re not mere historians.
            That said, more facts would always be desirable.

          • Mike678

            Agreed. More facts would be desirable; it reduces the number of assumptions and often enables better outcomes.

            I’m sorry if you view any of the above as an ‘attack’, personal or otherwise. Not my intention. More a questioning of assumptions and conclusions. But then again, that is my perception…

          • OceanStateCurrent

            No sense of attack. I’m cutting against the grain on this issue, so I’m interested in nailing down contrary arguments to better understand them.

    • Joe Smith

      As for Joe’s complaints about Kingston Hill and Compass school student makeup, did anyone bother to look where these schools are located? They are in middle/upper middle class neighborhoods, approximately 97% Caucasian (RI is ~86%). So little wonder that the schools ethnic makeup is as the charters draw significant numbers from the local community.

      Good question for RIDE/BOE when these were approve, but your facts are not correct (or more accurately you can’t just look at the neighborhood around the school).

      (1) According to their charter, these are “state-wide” charters so in theory they should be drawing from a wider source. But let’s grant your point that charters draw more from closer towns.

      (2) According to RIDE data, North Kingstown (40% of KHA total enrollment) is 22% FRL and 12% minority – in the last lottery, KHA took 43% of its K class from North Kingstown with 0 (zero, nada) FRL and 0 minority. Compass has 36 kids (something like 25% of its total) from NK and has 2 FRL and 0 minorities.

      (3) According to RIDE, South Kingstown is 22% FRL and 16% minority yet Compass took only 13% FRL and no minorities and KHA took in its K class 0% FRL and minorities from SK.

      So while your point in general may be true (sticking a charter school in a suburban, non-minority community; in fact sticking two since they are 1/4 mile apart), your conclusion is false in that the schools are not close to matching the FRL levels of the top sending communities.

      And that’s not hard when you start with the fact the schools were founded by upper middle class white parents who don’t advertise, don’t seek out “those kind of students” (to quote one parent), don’t weight FRL applicants in the lottery (allowable under the rules), hold open houses during work days, aren’t located on a public transportation route, and then use the sibling policy to reinforce the trend.. etc., etc. etc..Of course the “lottery” will result in enrollment that doesn’t match the sending communities.

      Transparency – where are their charters posted? Innovation – read those schools’ annual reports (which is hard to do since neither they nor RIDE post them, you have to APRA them) – nothing of note (and nothing listed in one case) under innovation.

      Financial transparency – Compass did not even file quarterly reports (which according to RIGL and RIDE is cause for immediate charter revocation) for years. KHA has not passed a budget by the start of the FY in two years and filed misleading statements (do not match their own audit or board meeting minutes) with the AOG. Did RIDE care when it came time to renew or expand? Of course not.

      Performance – okay, but let’s compare schools to schools, right? If KHA and Compass are drawing from the wealthier, white neighborhoods, don’t compare them to NK, SK, Chariho as a whole; compare them to the actual ES/MS schools those students would have attended. RIDE won’t do that because it would show those individual public schools outperform the charters.

      So if I’m trading for performance, then is it really the point of charters to create a duplicate school for middle to upper class white kids in place of an equally or better performing public school? A BVP which is 70+% FRL taking kids from Central Falls or Pawtucket, I get that..taking white two-parent upper middle class children whose parents don’t want to pay for private schools and want their own little quasi-private school, sorry, don’t get that. It’s different than the crony capitalism you see in other sectors that get public dollars..

      As for taxpayers, what they do versus what they can do are different things. They can vote out school board or town councilors. Charter school board – at least the independent ones, they vote among themselves (not even a parental election) so the only ones holding them accountable are RIDE/BOE and well, as Justin stated, if the government has picked a winner, then the agency will favor that.

      I don’t agree with the legislation that the town council or school board should vote on a charter school, but I believe each town should hold its own referendum on whether to allow it wants to fund out of district choice (other than legally mandated for Special education – which is another issue as well in terms of accountability!). If people want choice and there is this pent up demand, then it should pass.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        I tend to agree with Justin’s main premise. I fear that they may be “stealing market share”. Much in the same way the Japanese captured the auto market, by selling their already cheaper cars at below profit prices. I do fear the loss of Catholic schools because they have “set a standard” for several generations.I think that had little to do with Catholicism and much to do with parents who made whatever extra effort to send their kids there.

      • Mike678

        I am unclear on why you continue to compare FRL levels and infer, through anecdotal means, that these schools are intentionally excluding anyone. Do you have any references/facts to back your assertion? Are you stating the lottery is fixed? Is there a law that these schools have quotas they must fill? Or is that your opinion that you wish was a fact? And, BTW, nice strawman argument…I never stated these schools matched any FRL numbers. So no false conclusion…just a false assertion on your part.

        You also infer, without any evidence, that these schools would do less well against any public school with a similar makeup. I have researched this….look at Stony Lane El. This is NK’s flagship school. The two charters, with similar make ups, did as well or better. It varies year to year, but on average….

        And let’s not forget costs. These parents get a product they want for the average maintenance of effort cost from their community. The public schools cost more as the taxpayer pays that cost as well as millions in capital improvement and, of course, bond payments to pay for the school buildings. Yes, it would be more efficient to have all the kids in public schools, especially as they have extra room as the population drops, but the efficiency argument is specious when you look at the salary and benefits of the teachers…as well as the size of the administration. Compare the administration levels between the charters, public and private schools. Guess where the fat is!

        We have a local school committee member in NK who rants against the charters and is always harping on the cost of the charters, but is, unsurprisingly, less critical as he supports every cost increase his superintendent wants. The sad fact is that we could fund the charters for a year or two with just one year of the town’s public school salary and benefit cost increases. At least the charter parents and students would get something. Because all the taxpayer gets from the traditional public schools is the same educational outcome at a higher cost.

        • Joe Smith

          These parents get a product they want for the average maintenance of
          effort cost from their community. The public schools cost more as the
          taxpayer pays that cost as well as millions in capital improvement and,
          of course, bond payments to pay for the school buildings

          Kingston Hill –

          FY 2014 – Expenses 3,050M. Students – 185. Cost per student – $16, 486.

          Now, let’s look at probably the two biggest providers to that school. – SK and NK – and forget the FRL differential, which would ignore that on average, higher FRL populations cost more to educate.

          NK FY 2014 – Elementary school: $13,602
          SK FY 2014 – Elementary school – $14,988

          But what about administration/overhead? Okay, so add ALL the central office (even though it covers the entire district) –

          NK FY 2014 – ES plus overhead: $14,013
          SK FY 2014 – Elementary school – $15,538

          Hmm..but what about hidden costs like business and educational services, etc not captured in the UCOA school cost or central office.

          NK FY 2014 – ES plus overhead plus: $14,677
          SK FY 2014 – Elementary school – $16,940

          and this is to get, “equal or so” performance..

          KHA “overhead” (meaning its non-principal central office cost) – they outsource that to the Groden Center (which is the owner of KHA so let’s ignore the no-bid, conflict of interest point).

          Bond payments – the taxpayers pay that either way; through town tuition, state aid, or state construction aid (which charters get). Also, recall the net assets accrue to the charter owner while the with the local school, the asset belongs to the taxpayers.

          Yes, the charter owner may take the ‘risk’, but the system is designed to essentially eliminate that risk (look at the Virtual Green “on-line” school that was subsidized with hundreds of thousands of dollars with start-up funds). The owners had no risk if they walked away; just like charter school owners that want to walk away don’t have to pay back any school construction or state aid used for asset improvement.

          “The two charters, with similar make ups, did as well or better. It varies year to year, but on average..” Okay, even not accounting for FRL or IEP differentials, what you are saying is we built redundant schools that have higher per pupil costs to get the same results. Hence, the point of why not put some restrictions that charters should first draw from higher cost, lower performing schools?

          The lottery system is built on equity (which assumes the false case of equal access and information to all parents), but your argument is on efficiency (better outcomes at lower cost). I would agree with the latter as a goal so why not use efficiency as the basis for enrollment – don’t take the high performing students from lower cost schools; take the low performing students from high cost schools and close down/force competition on those schools?

          • Mike678

            I appreciate the effort you put into your analysis, but it is incomplete, Let’s step through your analysis and you tell me where I am wrong.

            Kingston Hill –

            FY 2014 – Expenses 3,050M. Students – 185. Cost per student – $16, 486.

            To ensure we are comparing apples to apples. Where did you get the 3M figure? Is it total expenses? Or is it computed using the same constraints for the SK/NK figures below? (your numbers appear to be Mx of effort, but without references I can’t verify)

            Now, let’s look at probably the two biggest providers to that school. – SK and NK – and forget the FRL differential, which would ignore that on average, higher FRL populations cost more to educate.

            NK FY 2014 – Elementary school: $13,602

            SK FY 2014 – Elementary school – $14,988

            But what about administration/overhead? Okay, so add ALL the central office (even though it covers the entire district) –

            NK FY 2014 – ES plus overhead: $14,013

            SK FY 2014 – Elementary school – $15,538

            Hmm..but what about hidden costs like business and educational services, etc not captured in the UCOA school cost or central office.

            NK FY 2014 – ES plus overhead plus: $14,677

            SK FY 2014 – Elementary school – $16,940

            and this is to get, “equal or so” performance..

            First, you missed a few costs. Comparing ‘maintenance of effort’ costs hides the hidden costs of buildings, maintenance, bond debt and pension/benefits liability. Pension liability to NK for just the teachers is ~$46M. Next year the towns/cities have to include Benefit liabilities also—not sure of that cost, but let’s assume that total school liability will be about $65M. Yes, this accrued over several years, but it does point to the obvious—we aren’t calculating the true cost of the schools every year but are instead passing on debt to another generation. Additionally, add in the cost bond debt accrued as we pass bonds to pay for buildings and capital improvements. The state chips in, but the bond debt belongs to the town. More on this later.

            As for “equal or so,” not so fast. A quick look at the PARCC results shows KHA with an overall “meets expectations” rate of 59%. Stoney Lane, one of NK’s best performing schools, rated 47%. Scores were closer—756 for KHA and 748 for SL. For literacy, it was 77% for KHA and 58% for SL. Another school in NK had Math rate of 34%. So it is perhaps less “equal or so” and perhaps a little better…. Though results change year to year.

            Bond payments – the taxpayers pay that either way; through town tuition, state aid, or state construction aid (which charters get). Also, recall the net assets accrue to the charter owner while the with the local school, the asset belongs to the taxpayers.

            Now that is a stretch. Let’s not confuse the issue with state funding—that goes to both. Let’s stick with the Town as we are talking about NK charters. The bond debt for NK that went to the schools did not fund the Charters—it went into the town “assets” as you reference them. As for calling these building assets, a quick look at towns and cities trying to sell old school buildings shows that these “assets” go for pennies on the dollar. How long has NK had to maintain Wickford Elementary after it closed? What was the “profit” it made on this asset? No, in most cases, the buildings are more a liability than an asset unless it is situated on a very nice piece of real estate. In most cases, these old buildings are more liability than asset—as demonstrated in NK.

            Yes, the charter owner may take the ‘risk’, but the system is designed to essentially eliminate that risk (look at the Virtual Green “on-line” school that was subsidized with hundreds of thousands of dollars with start-up funds). The owners had no risk if they walked away; just like charter school owners that want to walk away don’t have to pay back any school construction or state aid used for asset improvement.

            I think you are downplaying the overall risk by cherry-picking a single example. Can you provide more detail to better illustrate your point? BTW, I can’t buy big house for a few ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars,’ never mind a facility for 100 or so children. Where else did the funds to build/refit the charters come from? It wasn’t only State money—and it wasn’t town money (directly).

            “The two charters, with similar make ups, did as well or better. It varies year to year, but on average.” Okay, even not accounting for FRL or IEP differentials, what you are saying is we built redundant schools that have higher per pupil costs to get the same results. Hence, the point of why not put some restrictions that charters should first draw from higher cost, lower performing schools?

            Performance was addressed earlier, and I didn’t say the schools were redundant—you did. I said they provide parents a choice. And if you add in bond and liability costs, it is unlikely that the charters cost much more—and it could be less. Moreover, why do you assume it is the charters that are redundant? Perhaps it’s the overly expensive traditional schools that should be consolidated and downsized. The sad thing is that the charters get so much $ because the unionized public schools cost so much in labor and benefits. If the traditional public school salaries and benefits (and bloated administration) were more in line with the charters and private schools, the charters would get much less.

            The lottery system is built on equity (which assumes the false case of equal access and information to all parents), but your argument is on efficiency (better outcomes at lower cost). I would agree with the latter as a goal so why not use efficiency as the basis for enrollment – don’t take the high performing students from lower cost schools; take the low performing students from high cost schools and close down/force competition on those schools?

            Efficiency is but one of the arguments—and usually the argument that people often make against the charters (and they usually compare MX of effort vice all costs—for obvious, if dishonest, reasons), but the main objective is education. I don’t think parents should be forced to attend a school that doesn’t meet the needs of the student—they should have a choice. And if that choice isn’t overly burdensome—or even less expensive to the town overall—then they should have that choice. The argument that Charters are taking high-performing students from traditional schools is another assumption often divorced from reality. It is more likely that parents that care have children that perform better academically and they choose the charters. (from a WaPo article: Because parents and students choose the school, it is almost impossible to avoid self -selection of students and families who are more engaged and who have more knowledge and skill in navigating school choice systems, even setting aside any active steps taken by the charter schools themselves..,) Why do you want to deny parents the ability to put their students in the best school possible?

            Good discussion! Have a great weekend

            .

  • ShannonEntropy

    Long ago Justin first proposed his Theory that Charter Schools were an elaborate Progressive plot to rid us of the scourge of ‘White Privilege’ private [ mostly Catholic ] schools

    I used to think he was nuts. Now I realize he kicked the nuts in the nut·sack

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