Charter School Lessons for the New York Times Youngkin Administration

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by James C. Sherlock

Probably surprising to many of my readers, one of the newspapers I subscribe to is the New York Times. Another is The Washington Post.

Of the two, the Time shows much more balance in his reports. No opinion – reports.

Time Education writers who witness first-hand the amazing accomplishments of New York’s charter schools and their enormous waiting lists can be counted on to investigate and report stories that blatantly ignore progressive orthodoxy about these schools.

They reported on May 13 (pictured opposite), this opposition to charter schools primarily disadvantages poor minority children and drives support away from poor and minority parents from the Democratic Party.

This is the message I tried to convey to the Youngkin administration.

The New York Times. This is not the Times’ first foray into the subject. see another big title from 2019.

Minority voters chafe as Democratic candidates drop charter schools

Frontrunners for the presidential inauguration are moving away from the charter school movement, and black and Latino families are asking why their concerns are lost.

From this 2019 article:

“The problem is the delicate politics of race and education. For more than two decades, Democrats have broadly supported public charter schools as part of a compromise to provide Black and Latino families with a way out of failing district schools.The charters were adopted as an alternative to taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers backed by Republicans, who were using the issue to woo minority voters.

“But this year, in a major shift, leading Democratic candidates are pulling out of charter schools and siding with teachers‘ unions who oppose their expansion.” And it left some black and Latino families feeling betrayed.

The industries of race and poverty. It is not just the Democratic Party that opposes charters, but also organizations whose whole focus is supposed to be minorities and the poor.

The NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center oppose charter schools.

Beholden to teachers’ unions more than to minorities and the poor, they even oppose charters designed to help the populations they claim to support, and they likely will in Virginia.

NAACP. In 2016, the NAACP Board of Trustees, citing concerns that charter schools contribute to racial segregation and starve public schools of needed funding, formally opposed charter schools. To see the narrative on the United Federation of Teachers website.

Let’s look. In New York, Success Academy, the nation’s most accomplished charter management organization, is “contributing to segregation” as follows:

“At the 46 schools in the Success Academy Charter Schools network, which collectively rank in the top 1 percent in the state for academic performance, 94 percent of students are minority and 74 percent are low-income.”

As for denying needed funding to public schools, charter schools are public schools. See a editorial in the Los Angeles Times by a Georgetown University professor who deconstructs this argument in detail.

Southern Poverty Law Center. As for the Southern Poverty Law Center, it supports amend the current Alabama charter law to adopt the current Virginia law poison pill:

“Charter schools should be allowed by local school boards with elected members accountable to students, parents, and the communities they serve, not appointed state officials.

To achieve these goals, Alabama should amend its charter law to require local school boards to license all charter schools operating in their district. (emphasis added)

They know that there is not a single urban school board in the country that, given the choice, will authorize charters that it does not control and have to compete against.

Lab schools are wrong. The Youngkin administration is on the wrong track with its college-laboratory school initiative, for which it is asking for $150 million.

This honeypot certainly has the support of Virginia colleges, but promises nothing to poor and minority children, let alone those trapped in failing urban schools. They will turn into enlightened schools for the children of professors and graduate students.

What to do.

Focus your efforts to increase charter schools in Virginia on charter management organizations proven to educate poor minority children to the highest standards and you will have a winner. Connect demonstrable needs to proven problem solvers.

It is high time to bring this debate to Virginia.

I recommend that the administration follow the advice of The New York Times and change the focus of its charter school program with legislation to:

  • designate the state as a chartered authority to provide quality education, as required by the Virginia constitution, to poor and minority children;
  • design state charter divisions under the direction of state school boards in our worst performing urban areas to be publicly funded, again to comply with Article VII of the constitution. Local divisions and school boards in those same areas will continue to operate their systems with state support;
  • inviting the most successful charter management organizations to manage state charter divisions under state school boards.

Dare Democrats and the professional race and poverty industry to oppose the legislation. This will prove their worst nightmare. They oppose charters now and will probably oppose the bill, but if they do they will be exposed as hypocrites.

I think it will pass.

Will Joe Morrissey vote against it? Chap Peterson? What about the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus? The published current agenda of this group:

the VLBC will fight efforts that undermine public schools in the name of school choice.

What if the choice was between existing bad schools and new excellent schools for black children? Let’s find out.

In any case, it will be instructive to watch.

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