Expert testimony before the Michigan statehouse:
Charter schools have strayed so far from their original intent that they should be renamed “corporate” or “franchise” schools instead, a Western Michigan University professor told a state Senate Committee.
Bills backed by Education Committee chairman Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, would expand opportunities for cyber charters, allow parents to petition a district to convert traditional schools to charters, expand dual-learning opportunities and require all districts to participate in a school choice program. Districts also would be allowed to hire private firms for teaching.
Western professor Gary Miron, who is nationally known for his charter school research, told the committee that the schools have strayed far from their original intent of being innovative, locally operated alternatives to traditional schools.
“They’ve gone away from those original charter ideas to the point that they should probably be called ‘corporate’ schools or ‘franchise’ schools instead,” Miron told the senators. “I like charter schools. I like the notion of charter schools. But what we’re talking about now is something that is very different. We need to go back to the original intent and goals.”
Miron said for-profit management companies dominate the charter landscape, and exercise such control over schools that local boards of education overseeing the schools have difficulty expressing authority or autonomy. Miron said that while traditional schools tend to be segregated, but charters have “accelerated” the segregation on terms of race, class, special needs and language. He said research shows there are few charter schools that show students performing higher than nearby districts.
I would suggest to Professor Miron that there isn’t going to be any re-regulation of public schools in Michigan. I think I can tell him what happened to his reform movement, too. We deregulated schools, Republicans took statehouses in Michigan and Ohio, moved quickly to get those pesky unions out of the way, and we’re now going full-steam ahead on privatization.
I particularly love how lobbyists and others have taken “school choice” and turned it into a mandate:
require all districts to participate in a school choice program
It’s called bait and switch, Professor Miron, and the people that live here are finding it very difficult to push back against the massive amounts of out-of-state money that is directed at destroying unions and leaving the field clear to privatize our public schools.
This is from Dr. Miron’s testimony before the US House, in June of this year (pdf):
Who Stole My Charter School Reform?
Even as the original goals for charter schools are largely ignored, charter schools fulfill other purposes. Promote privatization of public school system. Charter schools have provided an easy route for privatization; many states allow private schools to convert to public charter schools, and increasing the use of private education management organizations is increasingly being seen as the mode for expanding charter schools.
Today, one-third of the nation’s charter schools are being operated by private education management organizations (EMOs) and this proportion is growing rapidly each year. In states such as Michigan, close to 80% of charter schools are operated by private for-profit EMOs.
80% for-profit in Michigan. Anyone think we’re going to be re-regulating public schools anytime soon?
Claims regarding privatization remain rhetorical and unsupported by evidence. The recent economic crisis has shown that our economy requires greater public oversight and regulations, a finding that can be reasonably extended to markets in education.
Strong and effective lobbying and advocacy groups for charter schools quickly reinterpret research and shape the message to fit their needs rather than the long-term interests of the movement. They attack evidence that questions the performance of charter schools and offer anecdotal evidence, rarely substantiated by technical reports, in rebuttal. Such lobbying has undermined reasoned discourse and made improving charter schools more difficult.
While he’s wondering who stole his charter schools, I’m wondering who is stealing my public schools, and is it too late to stop them? I appreciate his honesty and integrity at admitting these realities, and I believe he was and is well-intentioned. I just don’t believe reality and honesty and integrity and good intentions are going to prevail up against all that money.