The Fix Is In

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

President Obama may have spoken warmly about charter schools but don’t expect his administration to do anything to aid them anytime soon. “The trend right now is toward vouchers and charter schools which, quite frankly, make the disparities worse,” Roberta Stanley of the National School Boards Association said in a comment from the floor at a meeting here in town to the head of a commission appointed by the U. S. Secretary of Education.

“There was very little, if any, support—maybe two or three people—for vouchers on the commission,” Christopher Edly, who chaired the congressionally chartered National Commission on Equity and Excellence in Education, said in answer to Stanley’s point. Twenty-seven people served on the commission.

Additionally, Edly said, “Our conclusion was that we don’t think that charter schools are going to lead to reform.”

“They are really a sideshow and a sideshow that is often engineered by ideologues and a sideshow that is not evidence-based.” Edly, who teaches at Berkeley, taught Barack Obama at Harvard Law.

Choice is great, Edley said, then added curiously, “You have to be going to a good school to begin with.” What the commission does want is not only more funding for public schools but more control of them.

“Observers disagree about the correlation between funding disparities and student achievement, but there is a broad agreement about the clear need for additional resources to deliver rigorous academic standards to students living in high-poverty districts,” the commission’s report reads. “The majority of states do not provide additional funding for students living in high concentrations of poverty.”

Edley characterized school board members as “hard-working, well-meaning amateurs, not experts in research.” In fact, the commission recommends that states:

• “Develop mechanisms—along with increased organizational capacity and expertise—to intervene when districts and schools are in fiscal crisis or when they chronically and consistently fail to provide quality educational resources to ensure students graduate from high school ready for college and careers” and
• “Establish a process for replacing chronically ineffective school boards with oversight boards or special masters when weak governance is clearly contributing to a district’s persistent underperformance.”

Only an academic would think that the answer to a bureaucratic inertia is more bureaucracy. In addition to Edley, other academics serving on the commission include:

• Mariano-Florentino Cuellar of Stanford Law School;
• Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University;
• John B. King, Jr., president of New York University;
• Michael A. Rebell, of Teachers College at Columbia University;
• James E. Ryan, of the University of Virginia School of Law; and
• Robert T. Teranishi, of NYU

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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