Tuesday, May 06, 2008

More Dumb Union Objections to Charter Schools

I saw this item yesterday and thought great news. It seems that Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker has solicited private funds to support Newark charter schools and why not since so many states seem bent on not providing the same funding for charter schools as they do for traditional public schools.
The Newark Charter School Fund has already raised $19 million, including $16 million from four national foundations that have joined together for the first time to fund a Newark institution.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Donald & Doris Fisher Fund, Robertson Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation have each pledged $4 million while three Newark-based foundations -- the Prudential Foundation, MCJ Amelior Foundation and Victoria Foundation -- have each pledged $1 million.

The newly formed fund is the latest in a string of philanthropic organizations that have been created in Newark since Mayor Cory Booker took office to provide private funds where the public funds fall short. (links in original omitted)
However, the teachers' unions and other charter opponents seem to be stuck on stupid with their message, witness:
But Newark Teacher's Union president Joseph Del Grosso said he is concerned about the fund creating new charters that would drain resources needed by Newark Public Schools.

According to state law, charter schools receive roughly 90 percent of the per pupil dollars used to fund traditional public schools, though charter advocates say they get much less than that amount.

"They're not working collaboratively with the public schools," Del Grosso said. "A human can only give up one to two pints of blood before they die. How many pints of blood will the district's budget give up before it collapses?"
So let's see, a charter school, which is by legal definition a public school, gets 90 percent of per pupil funding that a traditional school gets. To make up the shortfall, which may or may not be 10 percent, charters will be able to resort to a PRIVATE fund for assistance. I am not sure where the loss to traditional public schools is coming into the picture. Is Del Grosso upset that charters may be able to get more money than a traditional public school? I can see how that would be upsetting. But from what is reported in this story, it does not appear that traditional public schools would be blocked from seeking aid.
Recruiting, teacher training and retention, implementation of improvement plans for under-performing schools, are among the areas that will be targeted, Leschly said. The fund could also help create new charters. Leschly added Newark Public Schools might also benefit from the initiatives, particularly the recruitment and retention piece.
Hmm, recruiting and retention is a district wide problem, it would clearly seem that the district would benefit from such programs. Helping to improve poor performing schools? Who could object to that? (Aside from Del Grosso).

Mayor Booker has made a name for himself by looking beyond simply the government to provide answers. That Mr. Booker does not wed himself to any one idea for school improvement just goes to show that some leaders on the local level are getting disgruntled with the politics as usual in school issues and is willing, indeed actively searching for ways to break out of the old mode.

What strikes me as most odd is the recalcitrant stance of the unions on the issue of charter schools. While they clearly don't like, charter schools are here to stay. The public demand and bipartisan support (Booker is a Democrat) for the idea has assured that charters will be a part of the educational landscape and will no doubt continue to grow in size and importance. Yet, the unions are fighting a 10 year old battle they lost.

But the beauty of a charter school is that all the risk is taking by the students and their families. A charter may or may not fulfill its stated goals. If it doesn't it gets closed (something that never happens in a traditional public school for academic reasons). Who loses out in such a situation. Not the traditional schools, but the charter students.

As noted in the Newark story, charter schools actually save the school district money. So the charter operates with a smaller budget and must make their own budgetary decisions. The school district is without budgetary loss and they are not held directly responsible for what happens at a charter school. The district, to a certain extent has plausible deniability.

So who has the most to lose in a charter school? The students.

No comments: