Wall Street and Charter Schools

Diane Ravitch has an illuminating, if somewhat overwrought piece up today on Bridging Differences that has an assertion and a question.

The assertion is that the charter school movement is dependent on, tied up with, and owes much of its success to the involvement of hedge-fund managers in New York City.   The question is what will happen when the money leaves?

Ravitch’s piece is implicitly hostile to the modern charter school movement, and sometimes explicitly critical:

Now the charter industry has become a means of privatizing public education. They tout the virtues of competition, not collaboration. The sector has many for-profit corporations, eagerly trolling for new business opportunities and larger enrollments. Some charters skim the top students in the poorest neighborhoods; some accept very small proportions of students who have disabilities or don’t speak English; some quietly push out those with low scores or behavior problems (the Indianapolis public schools recently complained about this practice by local charters).

Still, even putting side this sort of criticism (and one should always be careful with criticisms that rely too much on the word “some”), the question of finance for the charter school movement is an interesting one.  I wasn’t really aware of the close ties to Wall Street Finance that exist in the charter movement (and I’m still skeptical; Ravitch may be overstating the case).

And Ravitch is right to ask, will the cash go on forever?

It probably won’t if the goal is to create a better system of schools; charter schools don’t quite seem to be meeting that goal (for whatever reason).  Ravitch seems to think this is the case:

Wall Street understands success and failure. When companies fail, investors bail out. As studies continue to show that charters on average don’t get better test scores than public schools, will Wall Street continue to be bullish about charters? Will they support only the ones that skim and exclude? When will they cut their losses?

But the money might continue, though, if the goal is the destruction of certain aspects of public education, or the working of systemic sorts of changes.  The question is whether the charter schools are supposed to be the end (as Ravitch thinks) or the means to some other end.

In other words, in trying to guess at the behavior of hedge fund managers, it really matters what it is those hedge fund managers are trying to do in the first place.

N.B. - I know, I know.  I said the c-word.  I’ll say it again: “CHARTER SCHOOLS!”  Please be civil to each other in the comments.

Deregulating education

Robert Pondiscio speculates about deregulating education in response to John Bailey’s call for the federal government to work with the private sector to improve teaching and learning.