Hurting the neediest children: Why charter schools are immoral

Today, charter schools–funded by taxpayer dollars–will send their amateur and professional lobbyists to Trenton  to block a bill thatSOSLOGO would place a moratorium on new charter schools until their impact on traditional public schools can be studied. The bill wouldn’t affect already existing charter schools so these lobbyists are foot soldiers for charter expansion in the take-no-prisoners war of  Wall Streeters against traditional public schools. Like other well-financed lobbying organizations, the charter lobby buys its politicians and tries to destroy its critics–because all that counts to the money people behind it is continued expansion.  An expansion that robs scarce public money from the neediest children.

The immorality of the charter lobby–here and in New York and throughout the country–is described succinctly in a statement issued today by Save Our Schools–New Jersey, a statewide, pro-public school coalition:

New Jersey charter schools should not grow until they stop segregating by income, special needs status and language proficiency.

The current uncontrolled growth of very segregated charter schools is hurting New Jersey children, particularly in districts with the largest numbers of charter school students.

In aggregate, New Jersey charter schools educate many fewer special needs students, English Language Learners, and very low-income students than those students’ home school districts. As the number of charter school students increases, this segregation worsens, concentrating the more expensive and challenging to educate students in the district schools, without the funding necessary to provide them with a high quality education.

In Newark, for example, only 8.5% of the students who attended charter schools in 2014-15 had special needs versus 18% of the students in the district. Only 1% of charter school students were English Language Learners versus 11% for the district. Even the very low-income students are concentrated in the district, with 76% of Newark public school students eligible for Free lunch versus 71% of charter school students.

Some charter schools are even more segregated than these percentages suggest. North Star/Uncommon, for example, educated lower percentages of special needs and Free Lunch eligible students than Newark charter schools as a whole, and North Star has ZERO English Language Learners.

Only 3% of Robert Treat Charter School students had special needs; only 1% were English Language Learners; and only 56% were Free Lunch eligible.

North Star/Uncommon actually visibly sheds the more challenging students as the year progresses.

State Aid summaries show that, between October and June of last year, North Star:

– “lost” 35 low-income students (30 Free & 5 Reduced Price Lunch eligible)

– “lost” 9 special needs students

even as North Star’s total number of K-12 students grew by 18.

As these more expensive to educate students leave charter schools like North Star and return to their district schools, additional resources are needed to pay for their education. However, those resources are instead being diverted to feed the growth of charter schools.

That is immoral!

  1. As a Newark Public Schools teacher, I bear witness to the devastating effects of charter school proliferation on the district as fewer and fewer resources are distributed to those children attending traditional public schools.

  2. Traditional Newark public schools are constantly receiving students (even in the middle of the school year) who have been asked to leave a charter school and return to one of the public schools. These students usually have severe learning and emotional or behavior conditions, thus they are no value to the charter schools and the traditional public school serves as a dumping ground.

    Bob Braun: The charter school people would rather attack me and other public school advocates than face the issue–and others–you describe. It’s a lot easier to call me a union advocate–despite the criticism I have made of unions–than face their own internal corruption. I was raised in a union family and I will always will be pro-union but I wrote a book that provoked a libel suit from the AFT which is more than the anonymous cowards who criticize me now can say.

    1. If the charter schools really cared about kids and education, they would embrace the challenge of working with and helping handicapped students, but in reality this goes against their bottom line.

  3. There are several ways to stop the corporate public education demolition derby from using their wreckage balls to destroy the public schools, privatizing the roads, privatizing the libraries, privatizing the prisons, privatizing the police, privatizing the military, bringing back forms of indentured slavery based on debts not paid off on time, etc.

    1. The U.S. Congress or state legislatures must act

    2. The White House and the states governors must act

    3. The people pressure the Congress, state legislatures and the White House to act

    4. The people riot and rise up in a bloody rebellion to stop this insanity. For that to happen, the billionaire oligarchs, the neo-conservatives, neo-liberals and fundamentalist Christians have to turn America into a 3rd world debtor nation with a lot of suffering, hungry, jobless, homeless people who don’t have a safety net until the misery index pushes at least 5% (15+ million) of the people over the edge and their anger boils. Of course, this will mean the police and military will be ordered in to restore order and then the country will be torn apart with cities burning. Think of the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles on steroids in every major city. Most of the billionaire oligarchs will fly out of the country from private air strips on their private test to one of their mansions in another country. Or maybe they’ll fly out in a helicopter to their huge private yachts and sail away.

    Bob Braun: I understand you are predicting what might happen and you are not the only person who sees this. I am wary of suggestions that urban residents are more prone to violence than are other segments of the population. They can–and should and have–take peacefully to the streets the way anti-state control students and parents non-violently took to the streets in Newark and forced the resignation of Cami Anderson. However, that spirit died after the mayor who supported them cut a deal with Gov. Chris Christie. As you suggest, it’s complicated.

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