The simple answer is that there are lax standards, poor oversight, and little accountability in the segregated charter school sector. This decades-old set-up is consciously built into many charter school laws, which exist in 44 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
It is no accident that charter schools are deregulated schools. Charter schools are not required to uphold most of the laws, rules, and regulations public schools are required to follow. Public schools, which educate 90% of America’s youth, have to uphold many public standards that charter schools do not have to even consider. In many cases, charter schools even dodge the federal laws they are supposed to follow. In addition, charter schools frequently do not report on things they are supposed to report on. Some commentators have aptly called charter schools “schools with no rules” or “free schools.” The official literature goes so far as to call charter schools “autonomous schools” or “independent schools.” These are all different ways of saying charter schools can essentially do as they please, often with impunity. This is all connected to the antisocial idea that charter schools are “free market” schools that should be treated like any private business. In French, the term “laissez-faire” means “hands off” or “leave us alone.” The “logic” here is that you live and die by the market alone and only “the fittest” survive in this inhumane dog-eat-dog world. Apparently, there is no alternative to a life based on instability, insecurity, and “might makes right.”
While fraud, corruption, nepotism, and embezzlement are endemic to most institutions and organizations in capital-centered societies, charter schools out-do most institutions, organizations, and sectors in this area. Pound for pound there is far more corruption and embezzlement in charter schools than other organizations and institutions. Segregated charter schools serve fewer than 7% of all students in the United States, yet they are in the news ten times more than public schools and other organizations for corruption and racketeering. And there are many instances of charter school corruption that never even make the news.
In the 21st century society needs a stable, integrated, fully-funded, publicly-controlled, world-class modern education system completely free of the influence of narrow private interests and their state. More privatization, more marketization, and more pay-the-rich schemes like segregated charter schools, make matters worse for everyone except owners of capital. Education, society, and the nation need less privatization, less corruption, less embezzlement, less fraud, and less scandal, not more of all of the above.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.