There is another powerful example this week of why privatizing public education is a lousy idea. As has been reported by the Charlotte Observer, 270 K-8 students are being dumped from the ironically named StudentFirst Academy charter school next week because the school is broke and will close. As the Observer reported:
“That leaves about 270 K-8 students scrambling to find schools less than two months before the school year ends. Parents who gathered at the school Thursday said they fear their children will fail state exams and could be forced to repeat a grade.”
And, of course, as is always the case with these charter failures, the traditional public schools will be left to clean up the mess since they will do their duty and admit the kids left out in the cold.
None of this is to say that all charters are inherently bad. To the extent they receive more oversight (and are more integrated into the public schools than totally unaccountable private schools like those slated to receive vouchers in North Carolina) they have potential to do good. Those who believe in and fight to preserve and strengthen public education “get it” that our schools are imperfect and that, in the right circumstances, well-regulated and monitored public charter schools can serve as incubators of innovation that can experiment and develop helpful new ideas that would be much tougher to develop in a large system.
That said, this latest closure serves as more powerful evidence of the fallacy of one of the core arguments frequently voiced by the far right in the education policy debate — namely that “competition” and the “genius of the market” will somehow magically fix what ails the education system. As 270 kids and their families in Charlotte are finding out, unfettered competition produces many good things, but it also invariably produces something else we can do without: lots and lots of losers.
Let’s hope this latest episode reminds state leaders going forward that when it comes to educating our children, we need a system designed to assure that every child is a winner.