OP-ED: Charter schools are an answer to educational needs
Bundle up America’s current array of devastating problems, pick out the most important, and one is bound to be public education that does not educate, at least not adequately. There’s an answer to what the standardized tests tell us, a simple answer, an answer the majority of Black Americans agree with, but not teachers unions.
It’s more reliance on wonderfully innovative charter schools, which also happen to be public schools. Charter schools are paid for through taxes and are free to students. A chief purpose is to experiment with different teaching techniques, to find improved instructional methods. A student doesn’t have to have a shining record to be accepted because admission is by way of individual choice or, if applications outnumber openings, by lottery.
For negative outlooks on all of this, turn to teachers unions and deferential white Democrats. For facts and logic, turn to the amazing Thomas Sowell.
A Harlem child and a Harvard student before going to graduate schools and becoming an economist, columnist and think tank fellow, Sowell has a clear, logical, realistic outlook on the world. The main thing is that he doesn’t play intellectual games the way the unions do in comparing test scores of those charter schools teaching students from down-and-out homes with those public schools teaching the offspring of the affluent and highly educated.
Instead, he goes to a place like New York City where it’s possible to compare charter- and public-school students with the same socioeconomic backgrounds, living in the same neighborhood and maybe even learning in the same buildings. The charter schools win big time.
Charter schools, please understand, don’t just appear out of nowhere. Sponsored by private groups, they are examined by school authorities before being allowed to set up shop, and they can be terminated if they fail. When a student goes from a public school to a charter school, money goes with him or her, but so do costs. Charter schools by and large do not have unions, and for those who adore these politically able organizations, it might be interesting to look at the huge cost of their unscientific resistance to in-person teaching during the COVID-19 crisis. Millions of young minds were detrimentally affected.
In his book, “Charter Schools and Their Enemies,” Sowell deals with all the kinds of cultural issues that can make some students perform worse than others and then says this is no excuse for public schools to say they can’t do anything about it. Education is a great provider. If not always, it can again and again overcome, affording life opportunities that are hard to obtain in any other way.
Sowell is not saying that all charter schools are great or that all public schools flunk but that we have a model of charter school networks in New York City that should be considered as a crucial means of solving one of our nation’s most pressing issues. His book competes more than successfully with puzzling education changes promoted by progressives right now even though President Barack Obama was also a believer in charter schools. As Sowell notes, students getting good at English and math is far more important than practicing grief or absorbing leftist propaganda. What is particularly scary are states wanting to set numerical limits on charter schools or lessening disciplinary rules that lead to better learning environments.
Expand charter schools, spread their best techniques and see what happens.
— Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.