Appleton Post Crescent Editorial: Reject independent charter schools
January 14, 2014
The latest attempt to privatize public education in Wisconsin comes in the form of independent charter schools — charter schools that operate outside the authority of public school districts.
Our state already has 243 charter schools — for example, the Appleton Area School District has 15 of them — but, except for two designated areas, they’re all operated by public school districts. The exceptions are in Milwaukee, where they can be run by the city of Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and in Racine, where they can be run by UW-Parkside. Those two cities also have voucher school programs, in which tax dollars are used to send students to private schools.
But a bill in the state Legislature that had a lengthy public hearing last week would allow charter schools all across the state to be operated by UW System schools, technical college district boards and Cooperative Educational Service Agencies, or CESAs, which are regional education cooperatives.
It would also eliminate district-run charter schools, although districts could convert their charter school into “magnet” schools and keep any federal funding they get.
On the surface, there are two major problems with public money going to independent charter schools.
Though these new schools would have oversight by public entities, there’s not the same level of oversight and accountability that there is with publicly elected school boards.
And to fund the independent charter schools the state already has, 1.5 percent of each public school district’s state aid is taken away. Adding independent charter schools will take even more public money away from public school districts — money that’s spent without the same standards of accountability as public schools have.
But, at this point, you might be wondering how these independent charter schools, run by public entities, is a step in privatizing public education.
It’s because this bill is just the first step in legitimizing independent charters. The next step, and the real goal of the money behind this movement, is to allow charter schools run by for-profit companies.
Instead of decreasing the level of accountability for public money spent on education by considering this bill, the Legislature should be working on a bill that establishes stronger levels of accountability for the state’s newly expanded voucher school program.
Little by little, public education is being chipped away by big-money private interests and the legislators they support. This bill needs to be rejected by legislators who truly support public money for public education.