The other day, I suggested to somebody that, from a certain perspective, charter schools (and mayoral academies) are like the government’s way of cutting into the private school market. Funded like public schools, charters are an alternative for which parents don’t have to pay if they’re lucky enough to make it through the lottery. It’s likely, therefore, that they don’t poach students just from regular district public schools, but also from local private schools, particularly the lower-cost parochial schools.
So, it was utterly without surprise that I noted this passage in a Providence Journal article today about a hard-squeezed middle-class Rhode Island family:
Danielle herself is tiring. Awake at 6:30 a.m., an hour after Josh left for work, she managed the boys’ morning routine and drove Cade at 7:30 a.m. to Blackstone Valley Prep, with his brothers riding along. Ditto the return trip, when Blackstone Valley let out at 4:15 p.m.
Of course, given that the thrust of the article is how little financial space a working family in Rhode Island has, the Maziarzes are fortunate that taxpayers are funding schools to compete in the alternative space. They mightn’t be able to afford even low-cost private schools, or they might have to find even more ways to squeeze their budget.
This is the circumstance of young families in Rhode Island, and it’s a good indication of why they’re leaving. In another state, with lower costs and more opportunities, the family might have no trouble covering private school tuition… or even trusting their local public schools for their educational needs.
Instead, we patch a broken system with some schools that evade some of the more egregious of the government-imposed burdens. The danger is that the tear will spread. One conceivable future may find all private schools that aren’t targeted at the most elite of families going out of business because fewer families have enough disposable income and because the government is aggressively moving into their market space.
Then the interests that have shown such dedication to destroying Rhode Island will move in to kill or undermine the charters, leaving us back where we started, but without even an option for which a hard-working family can scrimp and save for an alternative.