Monday, June 13, 2005

i think "field trip to mcdonalds" says it all

eduwonk has some good initial thoughts about a week-long series on the Milwaukee voucher program in the Journal-Sentinel (first two installments here and here). the main point: what distinguishes charter school programs from voucher programs is public accountability.

under no state charter school law would a school like this be allowed to open:
In some cases, voucher schools are really only a step up from day care centers, serving only very young children.

For example, reporters tried to visit the Academy of Excellence Preparatory School twice, each time finding a large, empty classroom in the back of the Parklawn YMCA on the north side. The classroom appeared unused, with few books or toys in sight.

On a third visit, the school's principal, Joe Nixon, said she kept the supplies in a back room. On that day, she had only two students. The school said it had seven choice students on the January student count date. The two students, a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old, were drawing. Nixon said she was getting ready to take them on a field trip to McDonald's.

yes, there are bad charter schools out there. yes, there are charters where kids play cards and watch movies all day. but, if the system works correctly, those schools do eventually get shut down. under most voucher programs, there is no safeguard against this.

charter school initiatives are about innovation. voucher programs are about deregulation and privatization. while there may be components of each in the legislative intents of both charter and voucher laws, you can tell by the facts that are just starting to show up on the ground what values the supporters of each school choice program have.

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