Upstart schools

In Chicago, the mayor plans to open 100 new schools, mostly small, privately managed charters.

In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley last week announced a sweeping plan to open 100 new schools by transforming the city’s worst high schools into small schools and remaking clusters of elementary schools on the South and West Sides. The effort will be seeded with $50 million in private donations and will rely on private groups to manage two-thirds of the new schools.

The idea behind such reforms is that moribund schools can improve if they are liberated from the constraints of bloated bureaucracies and union contracts. And if enough of the little upstart schools succeed, the argument goes, it will change the way business is done in the districts as a whole–in the same way that smaller airlines such as Southwest and ATA forced the big boys to shed their inefficiencies.

“The name of the game is to take a tired government monopoly and make it into a high-performing public enterprise,” said billionaire home builder Eli Broad, who said he expects to support Chicago’s expansion of charter schools with his education foundation. In the past five years, the Broad Foundation has committed more than $400 million to support new ideas and innovative leadership in the nation’s largest urban school systems.

“Competition makes a lot of sense, and it makes a lot of difference,” Broad said. “If they make progress, the rest of the system is going to catch on.”

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed a moratorium on new charter schools.

The Colorado Supreme Court threw out a voucher plan, saying it unconstitutionally stripped local school boards of control.

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  1. I will definitely be watching this with great interest! I think Mayor Daley is on to something…

  2. If only Romney’s veto was something more than a gesture: Massachusetts’ Dems are even more in thrall to the teachers’ unions than in most states, and they have veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

  3. Fletcher says:

    The unions are too entrenched to simply watch meaningful reform occur just beyond their reach. They will smash it any way they can.

  4. Hunter McDaniel says:

    The problem in Colorado is court holdovers appointed by prior Democratic administrations. Every year they come up with a different reason why the latest voucher program has to be thrown out.

    Judicial tyranny, plain and simple.

  5. The problem with charter schools is that they are ultimately controlled by the government.

    But I think the charter school movement recognizes the problem.

    Good for Eli Broad and Mayor Daley!

    I gave up on communism only after becoming a teacher and seeing how the school system was a lot like the Soviet Union.

  6. mike from oregon says:

    They are doing pretty much the same thing to a few high schools in Portland that are turning out dismal students. Unfortunately, I think it’s just the “Same-ole-Stuff” in a new wrapper. Until the control is wrenched out of the hands of the unions, it’s just a new wrapper for the same pathetic techniques. Sorry, I wish it were real reform, but I fear it’s not.

  7. the challenge is that the charters produced for the “city’s worst high schools” may not be the correct model for other high school settings.

    Often charters get thrust into the box of being “solutions for problem schools” rather than being a more fundamental tool of reform.

  8. John Doe says:

    This reminds of the joke about businesses improving themselves: if they are decentralized they should centralize, if centralized they should decentralize. Either way the changes give them a chance to fire the dead wood.

    Small schools are not necessarily better than big schools, since they are less likely to have good facilities and optional programs. The small school advantage is if you get lucky a good principal may be able to improve things. In fact small schools may result in more _bad_ schools as well as more good schools, whereas big schools are just plain mediocre.

  9. mike from oregon says:

    In response to John Doe’s remarks –

    Actually, it’s even worse, than what you point out. By cutting a large school up into 4 smaller schools, we now have to hire 3 more principals, we have to hire more counselors, we have to hire more teachers. In actuality, the teacher unions love this stuff, instead of one school with X amount of staff, we now have 4 schools which demand much more staff. No need to worry about if we’re getting through to the kids, and REAL standards be damned. It’s just more jobs that turn out pathetic graduates.