They say critique of charter schools is “tired.” Then I say it’s exhausting to see charter proponents cast some nebulous aspersions towards the nefarious “teachers’ contract.”

This, from the NY Daily “News.” The author touts the flexibility of charters to lengthen school days and years, but then:

While there is no direct correlation between increased learning and increased learning time, research shows that longer school days provide extended academic growth for children from impoverished backgrounds.

Correlation is not causation. Precisely. One has nothing to do with the other.

Extending a school day or year is hardly an “innovation.” To that end, why not have students from impoverished backgrounds sleep at the school, residing there year round if extended learning time increases academic growth, whatever that means. Test scores?

From my experience, there’s really not much that is “innovative” about charters. Learning is confined to a building. Students are separated into grades. Traditional, “Essentialist” curriculum, (see Bill Bagley) which has been around since the 1930s, prevails. I mean, squeezing every minute out of a school day by having students eat in the classroom is hardly innovative. Maybe efficient, but so are prisons.

What isn’t in the teachers’ “contract,” which in most cases is called a Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA, are minor flexibilities that I’d like to have, granted to charters, but not us. For instance, I’d like a better wireless network with fewer content filters. Maybe we at the school level get to choose our curriculum. Why do charters get to do that? Maybe we get private donations from philanthropic organizations to support our budgets. Charters get that. We don’t.

What’s really funny, charters are not innovative. They are the status quo. Their innovations, if you want to call them that, simply magnify the status quo. They don’t challenge it.


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I’ve never heard of this blog before, but now I’m listening. Charter school lotteries don’t make schools more diverse. I looked into some of the actual data. You can draw your own conclusions, but I have two very interesting observations.

One, I have a screenshot that highlights my own school with the charter with whom we colocate, at 85% and 49% at-risk, respectively. This confirms the many anecdotal observations that I’ve made over the years, most notably the car line that I see during arrival and dismissal. We have no comparable car line because our parents can’t afford cars. That should tell you something.

Two, see how the at-risk line increases from left to right? Also observe that the blue dots on the far left, the ones with the lowest at-risk percentages, possess no complementary orange ones. Those are all schools in affluent parts of town, in the tony Northwest, and one travels across the river into Southeast as you move to the right.

Charter schools in DC almost entirely serve low-income Black and Brown populations. That has indeed been their stated mission: to give families in these communities high-quality alternatives to “failing” public schools. Yet, they do not come close to actually serving the full spectrum of those populations. And for a sector that claims to have all the answers, one would think they would test the virtues of their models on the most challenging students.

The charter ethos is more demonstrative of clever marketing and exploitative branding than it is as a long term solution to the woes of educating diverse populations on tighter budgets. Rather than transfusing all the resources and people-power available to resuscitate struggling schools, which is entirely within the realm of possibility, the District, and other largely urban school systems, will attempt to improve educational outcomes through a hybrid mix of public and private funding streams. Public funding is limited to tax revenue on a per student basis and, in the case of low-income schools, Title I funding from the Feds.

Charter schools will take public tax dollars and supplement their budgets with a combination of private, philanthropic contributions and more direct funding from the corporate entities that operate the schools. Private funding gives charter schools permission to exercise greater autonomy in a number of areas. It is as if the private sector paid their way into the public school system and by releasing the public from its burden of educating the seemingly un-educable, they can largely operate as they please.

We shouldn’t pretend that at any moment that this was going to be an apples to apples comparison.


In our District, we are encouraging all students to be present and accounted for on a specific day because they will literally be counted.

As I overheard someone say, “This is how we get paid.”

Someone will come in and count all of our students to ensure we’ve enrolled all who we said we enrolled in order to justify our budgets. If that student is absent, we must have “work” provided to prove they are actively enrolled in school.

It’s not necessarily over for us, however. For a few weeks after “Count Day,” more or less, we brace ourselves for an influx of new students. Some years it’s been more, others less. But it’s the craziest thing, just new students coming one at a time, maybe in small groups, after this very specific date.

What’s happening?

The word on the street is that you keep your budgets once your students are counted on Count Day. When students leave thereafter, you don’t lose the money for that student, which also means that you don’t receive any additional funds for the new students you might will receive.

This is only anecdotal on my part, but I’ve observed this as a fantastic way for charters to rid their schools of more difficult students without losing funding in the process.

Happy Count Day!

Like so much else in education and beyond, we are seeing the familiar pattern of defunding, claiming crisis, and then calling for privatization in special education. This past week in Chicago, our unelected Board of Education recently voted to expand contracts with private, for-profit organizations to meet the growing needs of our children with special needs as […]

The Washington Post recently reported that DC approved three new charter schools. What bothers me the most about this: do we really need any new charters? How can we have so many different operators in one city, with wildly different leadership styles and educational philosophies? Plus, one of these schools is being opened by a former […]