Valerie Strauss read the report prepared by Gordon Lafer for “In the Public Interest” about California’s lavish spending on facilities for charters where they are not needed. She reported here.
The report says that “nearly 450 charter schools have opened in places that already had enough classroom space for all students — and this overproduction of schools was made possible by generous public support, including $111 million in rent, lease, or mortgage payments picked up by taxpayers, $135 million in general obligation bonds, and $425 million in private investments subsidized with tax credits or tax exemptions.” These amounts are based on only a portion of the state’s charter schools for which data was available, so the true funding amounts given to charters in communities that don’t need more classrooms “is almost twice as great.”
In California, traditional school systems can’t build new schools if enrollment demands it because of the way the state decides when it will give state bond funds to build a new school. According to the report, it does this by comparing existing classroom space with the student population projected over the next five years. Charter schools don’t have such a requirement.
They don’t need the permission of the local school district to open a charter. If they are turned down, they can appeal to the county school board. If they are turned down again, they appeal to the state board, which rubber-stamps almost every charter application with out regard to need.
The rationale of the charter industry is the same as that of Betsy DeVos: choice is an end in itself. It doesn’t matter if the charters offer better education; it doesn’t matter if they don’t get better test scores. All that matters is choice. DeVos agrees. So does Donald Trump. Choice, choice, choice, whether needed or not, whatever it costs.
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