Charter schools offer choice, not a particular educational or political ideology, writes Samuel Freedman, the New York Times’ first-rate education writer. He’s implicitly rebutting the Times’ editorial on its AFT-inspired charter school story.
The instant polarization that followed the charter school report misrepresented the issue in dangerous ways. Simply because the Bush administration supports charter schools does not make charter schools a Republican cause to be dragged into this divisive, bitter presidential campaign. Democrats as prominent as former President Bill Clinton also promoted charter schools, and so have many black leaders, whose communities are most ill-served by the status quo in public education.
Nor is there even a discernible charter school movement, if by that one means a unifying philosophy. All that binds together the nation’s 3,000 charter schools is their ability to operate free of the existing local bureaucracy. On the ground, charter schools range from ultraprogressive to determinedly back-to-basics, with operators as divergent as private companies, nonprofit social service organizations, and coalitions of parents.
I’m working on a freelance piece on the tendency to make all education policy about politics instead of being about education.