Posts Tagged ‘Charter Schools’

There’s good news in the Journal this morning, as Senator Durbin expressed he might be willing to grant the D.C. voucher program a second life.

This is great news.  Durbin was the one who originally scheduled the program for cuts, despite it’s massive popularity and success.

Earlier this year, Mr. Durbin inserted language into a spending bill that phases out the program after 2010 unless Congress renews it and the D.C. Council approves. A Department of Education evaluation has since revealed that the mostly minority students are making measurable academic gains and narrowing the black-white learning gap. D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and a majority of the D.C. Council have expressed support for continuing the program.

That’s significantly underselling the support the program has in this town.   The program almost exclusively benefits lower-class urban students, rescuing them from schools that are among the worst in the country.  This program should be a shining light of education reform, and instead congress, with Arne Duncan and President Obama’s tacit approval, have been planning to cut it for a long time.

It’s frustrating to watch the administration, the congress, and D.C.’s own Mayor talk tough about education reform and turn around to kill the one good thing to happen to education in this city in ages.  Especially when the Obama’s and Mayor Fenty either send their children to private schools, or pull rank but won’t extend the same opportunity to those less privileged.  The political class motto as always, kiddies: do as I say, not as I do.

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The Journal has an interesting article on a new study that adds fuel to the education reform fire.   The study, which the journal calls the most comprehensive to date, found that:

New York charter applicants are more likely than the average New York family to be black, poor and living in homes with adults who possess fewer education credentials. But positive results already begin to emerge by the third grade: The average charter student is scoring 5.8 points higher than his lotteried-out peers in math and 5.3 points higher in English. In grades four through eight, the charter student jumps ahead by 5 more points each year in math and 3.6 points each year in English.

Charter students are also shrinking the learning gap between low-income minorities and more affluent whites. “On average,” the report concludes, “a student who attended a charter school for all of the grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86% of the ‘Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap’ in math and 66% of the achievement gap in English.”

This shoots holes in the ridiculous argument that charter schools, and freedom in general, benefits only the rich.  I’ve heard that theory vehemently advanced by people whose intellect I otherwise respect, but it doesn’t make any sense at all.

The rich, the privileged, already have access to all kinds of opportunity.  That’s why they’re called “privileged”.  The poor, or the “disadvantaged” do not, almost by definition. Increasing the amount of choice or liberty in education doesn’t further disadvantage the disadvantaged.

True, this scheme probably does benefit the rich students as well, but the marginal impact on those already free to choose is significantly  less important than the drastic increases that accrue to the poor students.  Arguments to the contrary strike me as just petty vindictiveness directed at the upper crusts.  “You already have some choice, why should you get more?”

The real question is “why should we continue to prevent those without options from improving their lot?”

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