Sunday, February 5, 2017

Choice and the Un-opened Door

There are so many criticisms and counter-criticisms that swirl around the issue of choice and charters in the Great Unending Education Debate, but there are some criticisms of choice that have never been answered, because they can't be.

It's not all the surprising that Betsy DeVos came up stumped by IDEA at her hearing-- charter-choice systems don't spend a lot of energy, effort or (most importantly) money on students with special needs. This is not news-- we were talking about it back in, say, 2012, when Nina Rees president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, "said she'd like to provide schools with more assistance on special education, but said she believed the lower rates were mostly the result of parental choice."

If they're not selecting charter schools it's a reflection of where parents decide to send their kids and not so much a reflection on charter schools, in my opinion.

Please. It is exactly a reflection on charter schools. Imagine making this same argument about segregated lunch counters. "Hey, if black folks don't choose to come in here just because we won't serve them, well, then, they're just exercising their freedom of choice!"

No business sets out to attract and serve all customers. The most fundamental part of a business plan is to know what your target audience is, and then aim at them while ignoring all others. You can't open the door to everyone, and you can't be welcoming to everyone. McDonalds is unwelcoming to fancy people in search of fine dining. Lexus dealerships do not open their doors wide to poor folks looking for a beater.

And charter schools are not open to all comers. Saying, "Well, that customer didn't choose" is a pile of baloney when you made no attempt to be chosen, or made efforts to make sure that customer did NOT choose you.

It doesn't change this to talk about "access" or "opportunity." Black folks had "access" to the doors to segregated businesses, and they had the "opportunity" to walk through those doors before they were shoved back out of them. Every customer has the opportunity to buy a Lexus-- but plenty don't have the money. Every passenger on the Titanic had access to a life boat, but only some could actually be saved.

Nor do charters have to worry about what becomes of the customers who choose not to enter a school where they're unwelcome. Did that student who walked away from us find a school that would serve their needs and make them feel welcome? Who knows? We are not responsible for other peoples' customers.

The promise of public education is that every child or every ability level and family background will be welcomed into a school where they will be given a great education. The door must be open to everyone, and once through that door, they should all be welcomed. The idea of a charter-choice system that does not keep the door open for everyone runs counter to the promise of public education.

1 comment:

  1. In Devos' written response to a question from Senator Murray about whether all schools that receive government funding should be required to meet the needs of special needs children, Devos response could be boiled down to one word:


    Read about that here:

    In defending that "No", Devos —- or more likely one of her staff — wrote a response that applied this tortured logic (my paraphrasing … i.e. “STFU” �� ):

    “Not every public school currently provides — or can provide — for the needs of EVERY disability that a child may possess. This forces certain traditional public schools to refuse certain disabled children, recommending instead that the child attend a nearby traditional public school that can and does provide the necessary teacher, facilities, and services for that particular disability. Either that, or, in a small minority of cases (2-3% of the time), the solution may involve sending that child to a private service provider.

    "Mind you, that school may, at the same time, successfully provide for children in numerous other special ed categories, just not the particular disability from which that child applying to it suffers.

    “So that makes those traditional public schools exactly like tax-funded, privately managed charter schools, and voucher-funded schools WHICH HAVE NEVER — AND WILL NEVER — PROVIDE FOR ANY SPECIAL ED. SERVICES FOR ANY SPECIAL ED. CHILD EVER.

    “Why they’re exactly the same, don’t you know! They both refuse special ed. kids, who then have to go elsewhere, so STFU about requiring privately managed charter schools that are funded by taxes — the vast majority of which have never or will never provide for special ed kids — to provide for the needs of special ed. students.”

    That’s total nonsense, of course.

    The difference is when the charter school or voucher-funded private school refuses to provide for that special needs child and turns him/her away, THEY DON’T HAVE TO SHOULDER THAT COST OF THE EDUCATION OF THAT CHILD THAT WILL TAKE PLACE ELSEWHERE, and these special ed. services are almost always very expensive — smaller ratios, sometimes 1-on-1 for the most severe, teachers with extensive education and training, facilities for kids with physical disabilities.

    The traditional public school who sends a child to a nearby traditional public school, however, MUST STILL take on and pay for the cost of that meeting that special ed. child’s needs which occurs elsewhere, and pay for this out of its budget, and not the nearby school where it actually takes place. The same goes when the special ed. child goes to a private provider to have his/her needs met.

    That leaves less money for that particular traditional public school to educate all of its students, and more money for the privately managed charter school or voucher-funded private school, which get to avoid incurring such costs.

    Devos and her privatizing allies know that if all categories of schools funded in whole or in part by government funding --- traditional public schools, privately-managed charter schools, and voucher-funded private schools --- were on a level playing field, in that all three categories had to take on the cost of education a special ed, student’s education … either on that school’s premises, or pay for it to take place elsehwere, that would disincentivize profiteers from getting into the charter school or voucher racket.

    Take charter guru Eva Moskowitz of SUCCESS ACADEMY charter school chain, for example. (Eva has written two op-ed’s backing Devos’ confirmation … big surprise.)

    Essentially, Eva, Betsy Deos and the charter school industry view children in general as commodities… valued on two criteria:

    1) cheapest to educate — no expensive special ed kids draining your budget


    2) potential for high test scores — again, the special ed kids are unable to deliver those.