Charters Are Private?

Just How Private are Charter Schools?

There's been a concerted effort by the pro-charter crowd to "educate" the public about the so-called publicness of charter schools. You'll regularly see "charters" referred to as "public charter schools" these days, and don't think this slight change in label was accidental. The variety, quality, and types of charter schools - from your blatantly for-profit EMOs like the Edison Schools, the assortment of no excuses charter chaingangs like KIPP, rather progressive versions like the Big Picture schools, "mom and pop" charters started and run by legitimate teachers, and a number of other different types - makes this field more complicated than it first appears.

Given the variety of changes during the Bush years (and extending back towards Reagan), the whole privatization and for-profit thing has gotten a bad reputation (deservedly so), particularly given the whole Wall Street collapse '08, America's high poverty rate, and the vast disparities in income and access to resources.

"Public charter schools" is precisely the kind of term designed to obscure or confuse. Make no mistake about it - there are some very real things about charter schools that make them private. They're not a full-blown version of privatization a la vouchers, but they share a heck of a lot with the nuclear option for public education. From the East Valley Tribune:
Court ruling favors charter schools


January 4, 2010 - 3:41PM , updated: January 5, 2010 - 5:34PM

Employees cannot use federal civil rights laws to sue the owners of Arizona charter schools, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The judges acknowledged that, under Arizona law, charter schools are "public schools." They are authorized to operate under state law and must comply with some - but not all - of the same requirements as traditional district schools.

But Judge Sandra Ikuta, writing for the unanimous court, said that does not make the school and its owners "state actors," something required to make a civil rights challenge. Instead, the court concluded, the school is a private company despite those state laws, at least for purposes of deciding who to hire, fire and, in this case, whether to provide a referral for a future job.

The ruling is a setback for Michael Caviness, who claims that actions by Horizon Community Learning Center employees prevented him from getting a job with the Mesa Unified School District. But attorney David Larkin, who represents Caviness, said it could have broader implications for those who work for charter schools.

For example, he said, public school employees who make comments in the media on matters of public concern are protected against retaliation from their principals and school boards. He said the civil rights laws his client cited can clearly be used to sue those officials for violating the teacher's freedom of speech.

"If a charter school teacher now does that, they don't have the (same) right to freedom of speech as a public school employee," he said.

[Continued here]
So it's not some crazy left-wing blabble to raise concerns about charters being a privatization movement - but the pro-charter crowd will do all they can to misinform the public about the private-ness of public schools. The 9th Court's ruling further confirms the privateness of charter schools; sure, they operate with public funds, but they're fall less transparent than most public schools (and public schools are not as transparent as they should be - see Michelle Rhee in particular).

They often claim education is a "civil right," but their pro-charter agenda wipes away your civil rights.
h/t KL

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