The whole charter system is at fault

April 24, 2014

DON LASH'S recent article "The power to stop the charters?" correctly identifies the corporate interests that form the basis of the charter lobby.

We agree with him that not all charters are the same--there are progressive charter schools that are innovative and inclusive of the populations excluded from corporate charters: English language learners, special needs students, homeless children, over-age and under-credited students, or kids from families dealing with the effects of incarceration. However, his argument is incomplete, and could lead readers to conclude that we should accept "progressive" charter schools while rejecting the corporate ones.

This is a dangerous conclusion, one which confuses what education activists should be fighting for. We do not need to direct "indiscriminate hostility" toward the progressive charters, but we need to understand that all charter schools are part of a wedge that helps to undermine public education. As privately managed entities that retain public funding, they create an environment that helps to undercut the possibility of democratic control of the school system and the voice of teachers and parents.

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We should remain steadfast in our opposition to the charter school movement in general. The valuable progressive programs that do exist in the charter world should be brought into and integrated into the public system.

The progressive sector of charters (although many of them were the pioneers of the charter movement) are a minority that is not in the driver's seat of the charterization crusade. We can sympathize with the frustration that many educators have with the public school bureaucracy--a fundamentally undemocratic system that drove many to look to charter schools as a way of producing caring educational communities. But this movement, as we're sure Lash would agree, has been hijacked by corporate interests whose main goal is the privatization of education and the destruction of teacher unions.

The problem is that the monied interests behind the charter movement can hold up the progressive models as examples to obscure the inequality. But rather than accepting small islands of progressive schools that are innovated or cater to at-risk students, our primary fight should be to demand that all students have access to these schools and programs, by bringing them into the public system.
Peter Lamphere, Bronx, N.Y, and John Yanno, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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