Somewhere on the other side of the Wall Street Journal paywall, David Osborne is bloviating about why charters are swell and Democratic candidates should stop telling "big lies" about them. The WSJ undoubtedly considers this a real stroke of some kind because Osborne is nominally a Democrat, the kind Arne Duncan hugging, Al Gore assisting Democrat who loves him some charters just as deeply as any conservative.
I didn't read then piece, because I'll be damned if I'll give that Fox-in-a-fancy-tux news outlet any of my money, but I've been watching the conversation about it all morning, and I'd like to chip in two cents more, because even if David Osborne were right, he'd be wrong, and even the fileted chunks of his piece that I've seen are not countering the Big Charter Lie-- they are perpetuating it.
Leonie Haimson fired off a letter to the WSJ that she also posted at NYC Public School Parents, and it cuts straight to the chase.
Osborne is particularly upset about the scurrilous claim that charter schools drain revenue, and he offers as counter-proof that a school that falls below 75% enrollment can start renting out space to charters. Haimson reminds us that in NYC, public schools are forced to hand over that space for free.
Osborne also argues that in some states, the public school is "cushioned" from having money drained by charters, and he gets his list of states really wrong there, but here's the thing-- he's just indulging in the true Big Lie of charters. (His baloney about charters being public schools is just marketing baloney.)
Let's say a full cushion really happens. Let's say that in Pennshiretuckia, when a charter pulls $1 million away from a public school, the state just cushions that hole so that the public system doesn't actually lose any money. What is that cushion made of? An extra $1 million of taxpayer dollars! A "cushion" would be a de facto tax increase to fund charter schools! It's like this conversation:
Son: Can I have five bucks to buy gin?
Dad: Absolutely not.
(The next day) Son: Can I have five bucks for lunch money?
Dad: Sure. But what happened to the ten I gave you yesterday?
Son: I spent half of it on gin.
Dad: Well, thank God I didn't give you any money to spend on gin.
The Big Lie of Charter Schools is that we can fund multiple systems for the exact same cost that we spent to operate one. But no charter advocate has the balls to stand up and say, "I want to raise your taxes so that we can open new, privately operated, profit-generating schools in addition to the ones you're already funding." So instead we either force public schools to cut what they can't afford to cut, or we put extra money into the total education ecosystem and hide it as donations from rich people or grants from a government slush fund or nice words like "cushion."
SMH. Look, if you want something scholarly, there's a whole new study showing how North Carolina's charter system is gutting its public system. But this really isn't rocket science. As soon as you suggest that a "cushion" protects a public system from being harmed by charter vampires, you've admitted two things:
1) Anyone who doesn't have a cushion is being harmed and
2) The whole premise of charters for cheap is a big lie