Collin Levey lectures on charter schools

Two days late, the Seattle Times finally mentions the blockbuster national study that charter school students lag a half year behind those in traditional public schools.

Surprisingly, it’s in a column by Collin Levy. Not surprisingly, the column is an ideological screed that contorts itself into an attack on John Kerry, while failing once again to include the tiniest shred of local context. [Big picture doesn’t justify charter-school foes’ glee]

(Question: does Collin even read the Seattle Times? Is she aware that voters are being asked to approve or reject R-55 this November, authorizing charter schools? At this point I can only assume that the Times’ goal is to syndicate Collin nationally, explaining her meticulous efforts to avoid any taint of local consciousness. Anyway…)

While her column benefits from a coherency that has been lacking in recent weeks (perhaps Collin’s taken my constructive criticism to heart,) it includes the usual invective and exaggeration, cartoonishly demonizing those at odds with right wing doctrine:

Not since the golden age of “Looney Tunes” has bad news been met with such hand-rubbing glee.

That’s right Collin, we’re all just tickled pink that hundreds of thousands of children are getting a sub-standard education. Who cares about children, as long as it works to our political advantage, right?

Such opponents may often gasp that the charter-school program is a devious plot by the GOP to rid the world of public education, but their calculation is simple politics. The unions’ positions on merit pay (no) and seniority (yes) badly warps the educational landscape. And, as is true with most such entrenched operations, they are motivated by the interests of their members, not the interests of their students.

I always find it amazing when critics attack the motivations of teachers, many of whom have passed up the opportunity of better paying careers so they could educate our children. Vassar offers a BA in Education, so Collin, like many of her classmates, could have chosen that profession. She did not.

But blaming teachers unions for failing schools is a convenient way of diverting attention away from the fact that charter schools are indeed “a devious plot by the GOP to rid the world of public education”… at least to some of the more cynical and/or ideological members of the GOP.

Unlike Collin, I’m not going to demonize the other side by suggesting that they want to harm our children. It’s just that they are so ideologically driven — so convinced that they see the invisible hand of God in free markets — that they believe the outcome will be for the best… whatever the result.

That is the dark, Social Darwinian side to applying free market ideology to public education. Some schools will survive, some will close. Some children will thrive, others will not. But if you believe that free markets are always the most efficient means of allocating resources, then a free market driven educational system will be the best educational system possible… even if it fails to adequately educate the majority of children.

Of course some of the support for charter schools is more cynical. It all comes down to money.

The standard fig leaf of Democrats attempting to navigate between parental expectations and union demands is in play here, too. Democrats say they support accountability but criticize the Bush administration for failing adequately to “fund” the law. In other words, the educrats always turn it into a demand for more money.

That’s absolutely right, for the core difference between Democrats and Republicans on education, is that Democrats believe we are underinvesting in our children’s future. Democrats want to spend more money on education. Republicans do not.

Collin and her RNC overseers try to dismiss test scores and rely instead on isolated anecdotes to defend the performance of charter schools, but the more interesting question is “why?” Why has the Bush administration made charter schools a central provision of the No Child Left Behind Act?

Because it is education reform on the cheap.

I’ll say it again: you get what you pay for. On their own — without a commitment to adequate funding — charter schools are educational alchemy. A vote for R-55 is fools gold.

Comments

  1. 1

    Thehim spews:

    I\’ve found a good question to ask of someone that thinks that a free market system keeps prices down, but government run entities can\’t is to ask the following question:

    If Ticketmaster delivered our mail, would a stamp still cost only $.37?

    And you\’re allowed to laugh if they say yes.