Op-Ed

Charter schools would be unwise investment for Ky.

Marty Solomon is a retired University of Kentucky professor and can be reached at mbsolomon@aol.com.
Marty Solomon is a retired University of Kentucky professor and can be reached at mbsolomon@aol.com.

Charter schools are a cancer on public education. Kentucky should continue to reject their creation.

This is because they suck scarce funds away from our public schools, thereby making quality public education more difficult. At the same time, the vast majority of charters fail to deliver on their hollow promise to provide a superior education.

Charter schools are essentially private schools, run by private operators, under private rules, with private teachers, operating with far less accountability than public schools, and are exempt from all state statutes and administrative regulations.

The state would have absolutely no control over them. Because they swipe public funds from public schools to operate, they misleadingly call themselves public schools to hide their private nature.

While they promise to save children from failing public schools, charter schools are notoriously incompetent.

The track record for charter schools is abysmal and shameful. But that is what you would expect since they can hire teachers without any teaching experience or training — not even one college course in education — and can hire administrators without even a high school education.

The nation's report card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is administered by the U.S. Department of Education every two years. It is given to children in every state to measure their academic ability.

On math and reading tests in grades 4, 8 and 12, over the last eight years, public schools outscored charter schools in every category every year.

And when comparing test scores between poor and middle-class children, charter schools again failed. They were out performed each year by public schools. So, the claim that they rescue kids from failing public schools is totally bogus.

In Ohio, in 2010, for example, while only 10 percent of charter school children scored proficient, 40 percent of public school kids were proficient. In 2012, while 12 percent of public schools were graded poorly as D or F, 64 percent of charter schools got those grades.

The largest study of charter schools ever performed was by Stanford University in 2013. It included 95 percent of all charter school children in the U.S. It found that while there are some good charter schools, 71 percent of them were either worse than or no better than public schools.

So don't let charter proponents fool you. Their scheme is to point out problems with public schools, with the tacit assumption that charter schools will solve those problems, but facts emphatically counter their exaggerations.

The proposed charter-school legislation for Kentucky is a sweetheart deal for charter-school operators. In addition, everyone working for a charter would automatically become eligible for health care and retirement and the Kentucky system is already billions in debt.

Further, it would create a commission of charter-school advocates to uniquely monitor and approve new charter schools while having the ability to pay themselves lush salaries. Ever hear about the fox and chickens?

While advocates claim that poor-performing charters would be shut down, an initial charter would be licensed for five years, then could be allowed probationary status after that.

So a corrupt charter school could operate for maybe eight years before being shuttered and, in the meantime, be given multiple millions in state money. Worse, failed schools could reopen with some different personnel or simply walk away with public school money.

Charter schools are also ripe for fraud and abuse. Even though they propose annual audits, such audits rarely catch fraud. It is almost always a newspaper/TV station that spills the beans. To see the extent of charter fraud and abuse, go to http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com to see over 800 cases of misuse of public funds.

Kentucky doesn't need to expose its public schools to cancer.

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