Idea of charter schools is like kissing a pig

Published 11:32pm Monday, March 26, 2012

Would you ever kiss a pig? What if the pig were wearing lipstick? From a distance it might look a little better, but as you get closer, you find the same dirty, hairy and smelly pig. By dressing it up with cosmetics, some try to make it look more attractive.

There are pressing needs in Alabama’s education system. This year’s state school budget is 20 percent less than it was in 2008. Over the past four years, cuts have been so deep that our schools have literally lost billions. These cuts have led to a long list of problems: thousands of teachers have been lost, class sizes have increased, the state has not bought new textbooks in years and we have limited award-winning programs like the nation’s best Math and Science program, AMSTI, which is now in less than half of Alabama’s schools. But these cuts are not the only threat to our children’s education or our schools’ funding.

In the upcoming weeks, some legislators will try to persuade others to kiss the pig. They will advocate bringing charter schools to Alabama. However, charter schools are like pigs with lipstick.

Charter schools run outside of the laws and standards of our local public schools. The concept behind charter schools is that more autonomy will lead to higher student performance. It is based on a theory the laws and standards of traditional public schools actually hurt teaching and learning. The records in other states clearly show on average, charter schools have a lower performance than traditional public schools.

Stanford University conducted the most extensive national study of charter schools. That study found that 38 percent of charters perform much lower than traditional public schools, while only 17 percent performed higher. The remaining schools performed no better than traditional public schools. Simply put, for every charter school that outperforms a traditional public school, two charter schools fail.

Other states’ experiences also show that failing charters schools can be nearly impossible to close. The reason is because these private entities that are making a profit from these schools do not want to lose their cash cow, so they hire lobbyists and make campaign contributions in order to buy support within the Legislature.

Furthermore, there is a reason that our public schools are required to operate according to the laws and standards that we currently have. These laws and standards were formed over the course of decades. They were created out of our experiences and because they helped to improve our children’s performance both inside and outside of the classroom. For example, consider teacher certification.

In Alabama, to become certified, a teacher must take college courses on learning styles, classroom management and teaching strategies.

But because charter schools do not have to follow state law, charters do not hire certified teachers. Instead, they may hire individuals with no teaching experience or training at all.

We need to have certified teachers, just like we need the other laws and standards that guide our schools on how to address student discipline or special needs. Establishing schools that do not follow any of these standards is like putting lipstick on a pig. We know what works in Alabama’s educational system.

  • mo-of-thesame

    Our state already has Charter Schools… they are called Private Schools and they outperform the public schools by 40% on a third of the funding.

    Mr. Melton should know all about that since his church is the sponsor of a new private school in Selma. Perhaps the reality of the matter is that he is afraid of the competition?

    It is amusing how he describes Charter School politics… “The reason is because these private entities that are making a profit from these schools do not want to lose their cash cow, so they hire lobbyists and make campaign contributions in order to buy support within the Legislature” His obvious lack of experience in the real world and coaching from politicians who long ago sold their soul to the AEA shines though. Perhaps he should take his head out of the sand and see the disaster that is the Alabama public schools and how funds are stolen daily from those they claim to support.

    • Teboho

      Just wondering what your source for private school test score stats is. THX.

  • jasonsmith

    I agree with the overall premise: charter schools are not necessarily effective. However, it is important to acknowledge that Alabama’s state schools, for the most part, are failing at-risk and underprivileged students. Some charter schools, on the other hand, approach education in a holistic manner that state schools simply cannot afford (e.g. healthy meals, increased technology, employing diverse learning modalities.

    Charter schools are, in essence, private schools with state support. Private schools can be ineffective (e.g. Central Christian, in my opinion) or effective (e.g. Morgan Academy–given its academic reputation–not its diversity). I say all this to say, the right model can succeed, and frankly, I’d rather try kissing the pig with lipstick vs. annually kissing the lipstick-less pig that is Selma City Schools.

  • popdukes12

    I was thinking the President was touting charter schools, just the other day. The state of Alabama’s population increased 7.5% from 2000 to 2010, while the population of childern under the age of 18 increased 23.7%. This is a signifcant increase and warrents attention. A 20% decrease in funding is intolerable especially considering the purchasing power of a 2012 dollar compared to a 2008 dollar. The Selma city schools are funding a little over $8,000 per student each year. The priorities of any entity are reflected in it’s budget. Maybe they need to look at the overall budget and see where “human capital” fits in it. pops

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