Not-so-independent charters

Charter schools may lose their “revolutionary edge” as districts begin chartering schools, warns Justin Torres on Gadfly. Districts may start charters to evade red tape — or “to thwart real competition, preserve jobs (and funding) and cling to the prerogatives of their monopoly.” Even when reformist superintendents start mold-breaking charters, the mold can grow back with a change of district leadership.

What’s the real risk? Putting most of the available energy, political capital, brain power and money into “helping” districts engage in chartering rather than devoting those (limited) assets to advancing the frontier of independent charter schools: removing caps on their numbers and enrollments, creating multiple authorizers, strengthening school autonomy, securing adequate funding and facilities, etc. 

Note, for example, that both New York and Illinois have severely capped non-district charter school growth, thus funneling energy and advocacy (and philanthropy and imagination) into district-approved venues. In both locales, we can see some charter supporters easing the push for stronger charter laws.

Gadfly links to a Monitor story on Chicago’s new charter schools; the teachers’ union calls the mayor’s school reform plan a “rushed” and “risky” experiment. No surprise there.

About Joanne


  1. Nothing all that new here. The NEA has some charter schools, the better to study this strange and frightening new life form at close range.

    I doubt many are likely to be fooled that district-based charters are anything other then an attempt to create the appearence of choice without it’s actuality.

  2. “Parents don’t want their kids to be experimented on,” she says. “They’re tired of it. We’ve had an awful lot of it in Chicago over the past decades.”
    I don’t think there is any chance of success if parents (and the paying public) are not behind the change.