Charter Schools Can Teach Us How to Fix the System

Thursday, 20 Oct 2011 11:53 AM

By Lanny Davis

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
In the 1960s, the late New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democrat, used conservative, market-based, competitive forces to renew and create new jobs in the inner-city wasteland of the minority neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn.

A cynical New York City reporter (a redundant expression) was heard to mutter, as he heard Kennedy’s pro-market, pro-business ideas to help the poor, “You sound like Barry Goldwater.” Legend has it that Kennedy responded: “Maybe, but I know that I mean it.”

Today we have a concept called a “charter school,” which uses private market forces and competition to improve our public school system — by breaking the traditional monopoly franchise of the public school district, run by local boards of education.

A charter school, despite misunderstanding by many people, is a public school and is part of the public school system. It has also been mischaracterized as a private school, or as a door-opener for public-funded vouchers to pay for private schools. That is wrong.

But it is a school under contract — with one party a public entity — such as the board of education or the school system superintendent — and the other party a private party, whether a for-profit company, parents, or teachers.

The deal is this: The contract, or “charter,” allows the outside entity to operate the school free of the uniform rules applying to curriculum, teaching salaries, hiring and firing, and other operating details that are applicable to all public schools; but in return, the charter school must deliver on pre-agreed goals, such as performance measured by standard tests or graduation rates.

What does this achieve? A lot. First and foremost, it busts monopoly power, where one organization, such as the school district, has a captive group of customers, i.e., public school students, who have no choice but to be subject to the monopoly.

It also provides the benefit of competition — students have choices, and if the charter school doesn’t work, they, i.e., their parents, can vote with their feet.

And perhaps more importantly, the public school system is no longer a monopoly — they must do better or they will lose more students to charter schools within the public school system.

Success stories of the charter school movement can be found across the nation. In Detroit, with one of the highest dropout rates in the country, a charter school called University Prep Academy was founded in 1998 by the visionary Doug Ross, a former Labor Department official.

Ross received supplementary private funding, and promised to meet the goal of 90 percent graduation and 90 percent going further to some type of higher education. And he met those goals, using creative teaching, curriculum, and personalized techniques.

For example, parents at Prep Academy must attend “Learned Team Meetings” with their children three times each year. The academy develops the curriculum “one student at a time,” allowing students and teachers to develop their own learning plan, updated at the end of each marking period.

Up to eighth grade, instead of grades, the school evaluates students with a combination of learning checklists, rating scales, and narrative comments.

Another success story is a charter school in Chicago, called the Youth Connections Charter School (YCCS) at Malcolm X Community. The contracting party is a for-profit company called K12, run by another educational visionary, Ron Packard. But the school itself is run by a nonprofit board, which includes representatives of public entities and community leaders.

YCCS in itself deserves a separate column and study: It serves only kids out of the school system for at least a year — whether dropouts, in jail, or girls who have had babies. The results — using a hybrid of online, supervised education or in-school teaching — are nothing short of miraculous. Graduation rates at YCCS also have exceeded 90 percent.

So charter schools are the latest example of the benefits of challenging government monopolies, with the resulting benefits of competition, private investments, and innovation.

This lesson is just as true in order to achieve such liberal goals as creating jobs and enrolling lower-income people in affordable healthcare as it applies to public school education.

Lanny Davis is the principal in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates. He served as President Clinton’s Special Counsel in 1996-98 and as a member of President Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2006-07. He is the author of “Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics Is Destroying America” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). He can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@LannyDavis).






© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

'No Labels' Proves Both Parties Can Agree

Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 08:52 AM

An organization called No Labels, first established in 2010, has managed a political miracle: getting committed liberals . . .

Democrats Must Return to Core Principles

Wednesday, 05 Nov 2014 11:13 AM

We Democrats lost the U.S. Senate on Tuesday night for many reasons. But I believe the most important reason is that we  . . .

A GOP Win Should Not Mean Hard-Right Tack

Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014 09:26 AM

Most pundits are predicting a Republican take-over of the U.S. Senate next Tuesday. I am ready to go on record against t . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved