Charter Schools Any Good?

Charter Schools Any Good?


Testifying at NAACP hearing: Are charters the answer for ed?

Published on February 13, 2017

By Julian Vasquez Heilig


Professor, Director, Blogger, On-Air and Print Education Contributor

Julian Vasquez Heilig stated, “Considering the election of Donald Trump, we may have reached a watershed moment for market-based school choice and the privatization and private control of education. I probably don’t have to tell you that Donald Trump loves charter schools. The recent appointment of Betsy Devos as US Secretary of Education has made this conversation more salient than ever. During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to spend 20 billion on school choice in his first 100 days.”

I have to say I do not support this move, by Trump. Charter schools are not what they are cracked-up to be!

Julian Vasquez Heilig wrote, “Are charters the answer for a nation’s long history of underserving the needs of poor children?”

In a word, No! There is more on this later.

Julian Vasquez Heilig continued, “The NAACP’s most recent national resolution on charter schools has elicited a vigorous discourse about charter schools in the United States. The nation’s largest and oldest civil right organization is also a democratic, community-based organization. As a result, the National Board of the NAACP after its vote to support a charter moratorium, announced the National Task Force for Quality Education on October 15. This new group is charged with studying education quality, “until safeguards are in place to provide better transparency regarding accountability, and to prevent cases of fraud and mismanagement.” See the post Updated: @NAACP Holding Charter School Hearings Across Nation.”

There have been studies done, statistics compiled, already. The numbers vary but not by much. But the consensus is only about 17% (maybe as low as 15%) do better, about 46% (or 48%) do about the same, and 37% (or 35%) do worse than public schools. So, more than double do worse than do better. Of those that do better they can cherry-pick their students and kick them out if they fail to pass tests. Some go to class almost 50% more than normal schools.

So charter school choice, on average, is no viable choice at all, for anyone. As I said above, they are not what they are cracked-up to be.

Julian Vasquez Heilig wrote, “My Confession is that I am a former charter Volunteer (MN), Educator (CA), Parent (TX) and Donor (CA) I’ve also publish peer reviewed research on charters.”

Julian Vasquez Heilig posited, “I am a scholar. We are in pursuit [of] and convinced by evidence. So I’d like to talk about evidence today. Here are 10 things to consider about the market-based charter schools debate:”

A scholar is:

  1. a learned or erudite person, especially one who has profound knowledge of a particular subject.
  2. a student; pupil.


I, too, am a scholar by these two definitions. I am not a professor. I have attended classes in every decade since the 1960s. Plus, I have spent much of the past 15 years studying the US education system and in particular, what progressives have done, want to do and are doing now.

Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig’s education includes:

PhD  Educational Administration and Policy Analysis

MA Sociology

BA History and Psychology

So, I can see where he gets this using government, from his Psychology, Master’s and PhD degrees, to solve problems. Conversely, I think that government causes most the problems we have. It does more harm than good.

From Diane Ravitch’s book, Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms, published in 2000, we have the following — these progressives of the early 20th Century, thought that their reforms were both possible and necessary because they were based on the newly created sciences of Sociology, Psychology (Educational Psychology), scientific business management, and a misinterpretation of the somewhat recent discoveries of Darwin.

So I see where the author is coming from. However, I disagree with this author.

Julian Vasquez Heilig submitted, “Where did market-based school choice come from? Writing in the 1960s, academics such as the libertarian economist Milton Friedman, followed by John Chubb and Terry Moe in the 1990s, argued for a profit-based education system where resources are controlled by private entities rather than by democratically elected governments. They recommended a system of public education built around parent-student choice, school competition, and school autonomy as a solution to what they saw as the problem of direct democratic control of public schools.“

What problem? In 1960 we have a high school graduation rate of 60% and by 1970 that rate had gone to 75%. In 1960 we had a college graduation rate of about 35%. What problems did they think that they saw?

Julian Vasquez Heilig put forth, “School “choice” does not cure the inequality created by markets. Not surprisingly, the academics neglected to mention that market-based mechanisms are the very system that created the inequities in American public schools today. Along with other public policies, including redlining, market forces created racial and economic segregation. Instead of making this situation better, school choice made this situation worse. Research by the UCLA Civil Rights project has demonstrated this fact. I have included this report and other resources in your green folders. I have a few extra packets that I can give to folks after my presentation.”

Nothing will cure the inequities in education or in the rest of life. Even if you could somehow cure all of the differences between all schools (all schools would have to be exactly the same and still you’ll fall short), 50% of the education equation will always be different and that is the pupils will all be different. They will never be equal!!!

It is like an imperfect being, a human, trying to define perfection. It is not possible. We cannot even totally define inequity, let alone solve the problem.

Wisdom begins with definition. – Socrates

So, if you cannot define a problem you cannot solve it.

The market-based system did not cause the inequities. While we did have and do have to one extent or another de facto segregation the money spent on schools, is not the reason for the quality of the school. More on this too!

In a recent PISA test result a country in poverty outscored the US. This suggests two things. Number one is poverty does not cause the inability to learn. Number two that being able to teach ones children will not lead to a strong economy.

Education of the masses (in the macro) is Not what caused the US to be the largest economy on Earth. We did so circa 1880, long before we had even a 10% high school graduation rate and long before so-called diversity.

Julian Vasquez Heilig queried, “What does the research tell us that happens when everyone has choice? Also known as Universal choice? A group of economists mentored by Friedman, the Chicago Boys, took Friedman’s theories about education back to their home country and to push an education system with universal choice and relaxed regulation and oversight. Over the past several decades, Chile simultaneously became one of the richest countries in South America and the most unequal developed country in the world. In markets there are winners and losers. I also recommend you check out Linda Darling-Hammond’s, a Stanford Professor, new book Global Education Reform Movement. This book examines countries around the world and finds that market-based reforms have failed spectacularly when compared with equity-based reforms.”

Again, the reforms will not work. All of the reforms that have happened over the last 50 years have not done much. In fact, today some people say that a college graduate of today knows about as much as a high school graduate knew in the 1950s. So, all of these progressive reforms have had a regressive effect. So, please stop trying to reform things and education, in particular.

I’d be willing to bet that education of the masses in Chile did not bring about their economic growth. I’d bet it was the economy started to grow and that allowed them the luxury of educating their children more, like it did here.

Julian Vasquez Heilig wrote, “The position of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter on privatization is consistent with the views of past civil rights leaders. NAACP co-founder [W.] E. B. du Bois, in his essay Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the U.S., extolled the virtues of collaborative social and government action. He railed against the role of businesses and capitalistic control that “usurp government” and made the “throttling of democracy and distortion of education and failure of justice widespread.” Malcolm X characterized market-based public policy as “vulturistic” and “bloodsucking.” He advocated for collaborative social systems to solve problems. Martin Luther King Jr. argued that we often have socialism in public policy for the rich and rugged free market capitalism for the poor. White academics pressing for market-based school choice in the name of “civil rights” ignore this history of African American civil rights leaders advocating for collaborative systems of social support and distrusting “free market” policies.”

Here we go again with sociology and government interference with education, which is unconstitutional for the latter. Again, we’d all be better off if there were no policies from government. Give up the fight. Again, education was just fine, for 75% of Americans, until sociologists and government started interfering on such a large scale.

W. E. B. Du Bois had a degree in Sociology among other fields. He got his degree when sociology was a very new discipline.

I keep harping on sociologists because I believe one of their methods of research are flawed. I feel that surveys are very subjective and the questions themselves can be leading questions to try to get data that the researchers want to support his or her theories.

Also Mortimer Adler, a 20th Century philosopher said that sociologist’s research methods were flawed. I am not quite sure why, though. I am trying to find out why! But at least I do have an ally here.

Julian Vasquez Heilig propounded, “Do families actually choose charter schools? Probably the most prominent argument heard from market-based education proponents is that school choice means that families can choose their own schools. Proponents of market-based school choice have argued that charter schools were designed to have both more freedom and more accountability. Critics of privately-managed schools point out that charters are actually afforded less accountability. Mr. Ungar in his remarks cited a recent report released by the ACLU and Public Advocates found a variety of illegal exclusionary policies in more than 20 percent of charter schools they examined. In New Orleans, parents now only have charters to choose from in the Recovery School District. The New York Times has described the reality of school choice for parents in Detroit as “no good choice.” Jonathan Williams did speak to Special Education. Our new study in the Stanford Law and Policy Review (you can find a copy in the green folder) that was released a few weeks ago used geospatial analyses to examined charter schools and public schools nearby. While statewide number in Texas suggested similar proportion, when you conduct analyses at the local level, the disparities in access were statistically apparent.”

Charters have been given undeserved good publicity, so much so, that families have to go through a lottery to choose which kids get to go. So, not everyone can go to these charter schools.

I want to use KIPP as an example. KIPP defines “alumni” as all students who completed eighth grade at a KIPP middle school or twelfth grade at a KIPP high school. Currently, 81 percent of KIPP alumni enroll in college after graduating from high school.  KIPP: “As of fall 2016, 44 percent of KIPP alumni have completed a four-year college 10 or more years after completing eighth grade. The four-year college completion rate for KIPP alumni is above the national average for all students and more than four times the national average for students from similar economic backgrounds.”

This means that they completed a 4-year degree, 6 or more years after they graduated high school, most likely. That 44% is slightly above national average. As matter of fact 54% (44% out of 81%) do graduate. This almost exactly equal to the 53% that graduate nationally. This 53% is what do graduate in 6 years, nationally. That is in 6 years or more and not how many graduate in 6 years or less! But both college graduation rates indicates that almost twice as many go to college than graduate from it. Or that about ½ should not be going to college in the first place. Of course KIPP is a college prep school that helps out even in college.

According to <<>&gt;, in 2009, 53% of 4-years college students graduate in 6 years. So, 44% is NOT above the national average.

Julian Vasquez Heilig questioned, “Why is more oversight and accountability needed for charters? Proponents of more accountability for charter schools want parents to be able to choose from high-quality public schools. Instead, charter schools have the power to selectively choose students who will perform well. Charter supporters blame a few bad apple charters for limiting access and expelling too many students. But charter school supporters and their lobbyists consistently support laws that promote lax oversight and regulation. For example, the California Charter School Association has actively lobbied against data collection and accountability for charter schools. The pastor asked the Lord for opportunities for us to collaborate. I was recently asked during a conversation with Howard Fuller where we those could disagree could collaborate with the charter industry. Since that time, I have come to the belief that accountability and transparency is one such place.“

If both sides would just realize the futility of reform then none of this would be necessary. That realization should be the consensus. Most of us have heard of the prayer about asking God to give me the power to change the things I can change and the power to accept the things I can’t change. But nobody mentions the rest of it. That is, the wisdom to know the difference. I believe that most reformers never ask for the wisdom to know the difference. That is their folly. But ultimately all of the experimentation they do is harmful to at least some kids. They use our kids and teachers as guinea pigs. This is unethical.

Here is what I mean. We all can agree that most of us cannot run a sub 4- minute mile, lift100s of pounds, high jump even 5 feet. We acknowledge that fact that most of us are not athletes, especially world-class athletes.

Why then can we all not acknowledge that most of us are not scholars? We are not good students. 50% are average and about 25% below average (as well as 25% above average). The 25% that are below average will have a very hard time graduating high school no matter what you do. Actually according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 27% of all jobs through 2022 will require a high school dropout. Nowadays, we have over 90% with either a high school diploma or GED, so we actually have a shortage of high school dropouts. You claim that you want to educate our kids to be workforce ready but for this class of jobs you are over educating our kids for them and yet pushing for even more education.

Here is another example: The BLS also says that 39% of all jobs will require only a high school diploma. I say that most of these requirements are bogus. The single biggest employer of high school graduates are the enlisted personnel of the US Armed Forces. It is even hard to get in with something that is supposed to substitute for the high school diploma, the GED. It is impossible for the high school dropout. They say because of all the technology/computers. To that I respond with a computer makes the job so much easier. What could be easier than to point and click to launch a missile or a program? A trained monkey could do it.

This whole notion that that everyone needs to more educated in order to use the technology is bogus. Less education is needed. One does not need to be a computer scientist in order to use a computer any more than one need be a mechanical engineer in order to drive a car or a physicist/electrical engineer in order to use a phone.

A hundred years ago retail sales clerks were doing the job manually with a 3rd grade education or less. Now, we have college graduates doing the same with the aid of computers. Is this what progressives call progress?

Julian Vasquez Heilig submitted, “Are teachers’ unions leading the opposition to school choice? Another common argument from supporters of privately-managed schools is that the teachers’ unions are the primary opponents of market-based school choice. But as Cristina De Jesus, from Green Dot mentioned, there are tens of thousands of unionized charter school teachers. The attacks on unions from charter supporters is misplaced. In fact, we can thank unions for the charter school idea. Albert Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers, first proposed the charter school idea in 1988. But his perspective became that his idea was being misappropriated in the creation of anti-democratic, privately managed public schools. He realized that charters were increasingly going to a group of people who were “eager for public funds but could care less about public education.” Considering peer reviewed research and reports from the Detroit Free Press— the charter agenda pressed by Betsy DeVos in Michigan may be the worst example with the vast majority of charters being for profit and have some the lowest accountability and transparency standards.”

You thank unions for the idea of a charter school?  Why, when charter schools as a group are worse than the public schools?

Julian Vasquez Heilig promulgated, “Who is supporting charters schools behind the scenes? The hundreds of millions of dollars spent to promote privately managed schools is coming from the non-democratic foundations of billionaires such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. Smaller organizations including the Black Alliance for Education Options and the Libre initiative and the Democrats for Education Reform have accepted tens of millions of dollars over the years from billionaires and their foundations to press for market-based school choice. It is very clear that civil rights organizations, academics, parents, students, media and stakeholders that have brought critiques to our democratic discourse about private control and privatization are the underdogs in this conversation.”

I have stated as much in some of essays already. In fact Bill Gates has sunk about $2.5 billion into CCSS (Common Core State Standards). Add to this list Michael Dell of Dell Computers. Yes we are the underdogs!!  So, this paragraph I agree with.

Julian Vasquez Heilig wrote, “Do charters perform better than public schools? Charter proponents often cite studies produced by The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. CREDO studies are not peer reviewed. But charter school supporters and the media point to CREDO’s 2015 urban charter study to say that African American and Latino students have more success in charter schools. Leaving aside the integrity of the study, what charter proponents don’t mention is that the performance impact is .008 and .05 for Latinos and African Americans in charter schools, respectively. These numbers are larger than zero, but you need a magnifying glass to see them. Contrast that outcome with policies such as pre-K and class size reduction with far more unequivocal measures of success than charter schools. Also, CREDO doesn’t usually compare schools in their studies. Instead, researchers use statistics to compare a real charter school student to a virtual (imaginary) student based on many students attending traditional public schools. In spite of criticism of CREDO’s methods and lack of peer review, charter proponents and the media continue to cite the CREDO studies as important evidence demonstrating charter school success.”

Charter schools, on average perform worse than public schools.

Also, Pre-K as in Head Start, gives the poor students a leg up to get ready for Kindergarten but by 3rd grade they start to fall behind and by 6th grade they are so far behind that they never catch up. So, pre-school, for the poor does not have any long-term benefits. In Finland they do not even start teaching their children until they are 7years old, and yet Finland does very well on the PISA test. So, why do people push 3 year olds to start school in this country?

Julian Vasquez Heilig submitted, “Considering the election of Donald Trump, we may have reached a watershed moment for market-based school choice and the privatization and private control of education. I probably don’t have to tell you that Donald Trump loves charter schools. The recent appointment of Betsy Devos has made this conversation more salient than ever. Donald Trump has promised to spend 20 billion on school choice in his first 100 days. Considering his recent executive orders, he appears to be determined to implement his private control and privatization agenda regardless of the consequences of his actions on schools and communities…“

Julian Vasquez Heilig continued, “In conclusion,

I have talked about ten of the more contentious points in the debate about charter schools, but there is one major point of agreement: Poor students in the United States have less opportunity for a high quality education than students living in wealthy areas. It is the shame of our nation. We must NOT, MUST NOT, do nothing… because African Americans, Latinos and other poor students continue to be underserved in our society on purpose.”

It has very little to do with money. It is not the gadgets and the nicer, newer building that makes a school good. It is more the students.

They are underserved on purpose? Define high quality education! The poor are poor because the jobs are not there for them. They live in inner cities or in rural areas. What jobs are in these areas are not very good paying jobs.

Julian Vasquez Heilig concluded, “But there is an alternative, historical and emerging research supports the expansion of community-based, democratically controlled education approaches instead of private control privatization as the best course of action for families and communities of color. Community schools in one such approach as raised by Cecily. Communities of color, unions, school board members, teachers and parents should be seen as the solution and not the problem.”

You talk about inequalities and accountability as if these were solvable problems. So you can gather that I think that they are unsolvable.

Accountability in education is like accountability in healthcare. One can have the best hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other staff and still have negative outcomes. It is the same with schools. You can have the best teachers, administrators and facilities and still have kids that did not learn.

Actually the quality of teacher is based more as a question of the quality of their students then on what the teacher does.

Outcomes cannot be guaranteed. Let me say this again, outcomes cannot be guaranteed!!!

We all have a right to an education (to be taught/told) but we do not have a right to learn, or a right to a high school diploma or college degree of any type. Matters of attainment or achievement are not guarantees nor should they be so. That would take way from those that actually do the achieving.

While there are inequalities between schools these will always exist. There is nothing practical that can be done about it. You assume that rich folks are paying for better schools because they are rich. This is something that most of us cannot afford. But again, the quality of the students, is a plurality (50%) of the school’s success or failure. The other parts are teachers, faulty, staff, and library, etc. These add up to the other 50%. So, the students are a plurality of the reasons why schools are so-called good school or bad or average school. But it is the student that must perform on tests that you force them to take. Ultimately, it is not the money spent at any given school that makes it a good school, It is the students.

It is matter of luck to a certain degree. Let us take a rich neighborhood and its high school. Chances are it is good. This is not because of the amount of money they spend or the computers that they have or anything else tangible, even though they may have them. It is the fact that the parents were smart and lucky enough to get a very good paying job where they could afford to live in an exclusive neighborhood. These smart parents have smart kids and they all go to one school. This makes the school look good. It is good but not because of the teacher, staff, etc. It is because of bunch of smart kids. Being rich is no guarantee of being smart any more than being poor is a guarantee of being not-so-smart.

Conversely, the opposite is true in inner city slums and rural America. The parents may not be smart but do not have good paying jobs. Their offspring are oft times not smart, so a bunch of not-so-smart kids go to school and this makes the school look bad.

Again, it is not the teachers or the gadgets that rich schools have. It is the smart kids going there, en mass.

Again, not all rich kids are smart and not all poor kids are dumb.

You’ve said that these charter schools can cherry-pick their students and I concur, so the students are a big reason for the 15-17% that apparently do better. This should be readily apparent to most observers that that translates over the whole education system and to all types of schools.

It seems that progressives like to throw more money at a problem and think that that will solve the inequities and have better education for the so-called underserved. We now spend 4 times the amount of money to educate our kids as we did in the 1960s (50 years ago). There are many reasons for this, but we have not much to show for it. A lot is wasted on technology and needless endless testing. Part of it is mass immigration legal and illegal. We are having to educate kids that do not speak English. Texas has tried ‘Robin Hood’ law that took money from rich districts and gave it to the poor ones, which did not do much good.

Finally, I do not blame the kids. I do not blame anyone except reformers. I am not looking for accountability. Just go back to the way schools were in the 1950s through 1970s and we’d all be better off. We did not have accountability nor all of these standardized tests back then so why do we need them now?


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