Recently proponents of charter schools have been spending remarkable sums of money on advertisements designed to make our public schools look worse and charter schools look better than they really are. Before jumping on the charter school bandwagon, Kentuckians should consider these points:
■ Charters would divert critical funding from public schools. At a time when the state repeatedly fails to fund textbooks for children, it would be terribly damaging to redirect crucial funding and resources away from public schools.
■ We don't need charters. Advocates claim charters cut through red tape and empower school administrations, but in Kentucky site-based decisionmaking councils already do that.
■ Our schools are making greater progress than neighboring states with charters. In fact, Stanford University found that the more charters in a state, the more likely the state is going down in state-by-state comparisons. Since the passage of KERA, Kentucky's ranking in the highly respected "Quality Counts" report by Education Week has gone from near the bottom to 14th in the nation.
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■ Charters lack oversight. They are often not subject to open records laws, open meetings laws or other safeguards. This has led to countless charter school scandals.
■ Charters kick out kids who don't perform well, and yet they still perform worse than regular public schools.
■ Charters claim to accept all students but they intentionally screen out special needs students by requiring parents to sign waivers saying they understand that the school will not provide services for their children.
■ The turnover rate for students is high. A nationwide Western Michigan University study found the turnover at KIPP charter schools from grades 6 to 8 to be 40 percent, which is much higher than regular public schools.
■ The turnover rate for teachers is high. In Los Angeles charter schools teacher turnover was found to be three times higher at charter schools than at regular public schools.
■ The turnover rate for administrators is high. A recent study by the University of Washington pointed out that, in general, charters have no plan for addressing this problem.
■ Charters do not promote stable learning experiences for children. Charter proponents boast that ineffective charters will be shut down. However, surveys show parents would much rather help their child's school improve.
■ Charter advocacy organizations are funded by right-wing foundations that oppose essentially every program and service designed to support poor and minority children, but we are asked to somehow believe that charter schools have a monopoly on caring about these children.
■ Charter schools are really an effort to undermine teacher unions. The anti-union backers of charter schools, like the Walton Family Foundation, also support other anti-union organizations. Almost all charter schools are non-union.
However, a number of studies have found that students are more successful in states and local school districts where teachers collectively bargain their working conditions. This is because teachers' working conditions are also students' learning conditions.
■ Charters are often more expensive to operate. For example, the state of New Mexico found they cost 26 percent more per student. The additional cost for charters is often made up by private donations.
■ Charter schools are segregating our schools and undermining democracy. Public education has been a pillar of our democracy, allowing students to understand the diversity they will experience as adults.
However, studies have found that charters are segregating our public schools. Many serve only black, or only Muslim, or only Asian or only affluent children.
This should concern anyone who cares about the ability of the members of our diverse society to be able to get along well with one another.
For these and other reasons, charter schools would do more harm than good for the children of Kentucky.
We can all be proud of the remarkable accomplishments of our public schools since the passage of KERA in 1990. Let's build on this success by recommitting ourselves to support our public schools. Diverting funding and resources to charter schools would accomplish just the opposite.