From the VG Bookshelf: Charter Schools and Their Enemies

From the VG Bookshelf: Charter Schools and Their Enemies

From the VG Bookshelf: Charter Schools and Their Enemies

Charter Schools and Their Enemies is the latest book from one of America’s most treasured thinkers, Thomas Sowell. At age 90 he turns in a meticulously researched book, written with the calm professionalism even the most casual of readers of his prodigious output have come to expect.

Never a polemic, Sowell lets the facts – fully published and publicly available – speak for themselves and lays bare how badly, and how maliciously, the traditional public school system operates for its own benefit. That benefit not only puts children last but uses them the way a poker player uses chips at the table.

Running 288 pages (hardcover) almost half of the book is actually a report of the data he uses to backup every assertion he makes. He has a masterful command of data, setting up airtight parameters of the comparisons between traditional and charter, then marshalling forth the facts – putting the cards on the table for all to see.

In doing so, he then eviscerates each and every smear, charge, mendacity and objection to charter schools trotted out by green-eyed educrats and teachers union thugs for years. To start, Sowell spends considerable time explaining how the data was selected and its relevance. Since students across the country vary according to region as well as ethnicity and class, any comparison across these subjects – say white students in Texas compared to Asians in Iowa – would not yield a clean comparison of the impact of teaching on student scores, Sowell set up three basic criteria to compare compatible charter school students with traditional school students. He selected schools to pair thusly

*The ethnic composition of the paired schools should be as close to the same as possible
*The paired schools should be taught in the same building. Since the students of both charter and traditional schools would be drawn from the same neighborhood, it would reduce the introduction of any differences influenced by the socio-economic differences.
*That the paired schools have one or more classes at the same grade within the same buildings for direct comparison

In this way, Sowell did everything possible to produce a straight apples-to-apples comparison. Sowell settled for looking at several charter schools operating in the same buildings as traditional schools in New York City where in 2017-18 school year 23,000 students met all three criteria. And the results are telling.

charter v traditional test score comparison

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that New York City has approximately 50,000 students on waiting lists to get into public charter schools. What may surprise you that in light of all this success, politicians like Mayor DeBlasio hate charters with the heat of a thousands suns and is doing his damnedest to get rid of them.

He is not alone.

Sowell chronicles the shady and underhanded ways the bureaucrats and teachers unions who personally benefit from holding students hostage in traditional schools sabotage charter schools from being established or expanded. New York and California have lead the way in trying to bludgeon charters to death (two states with some of the nations richest and most powerful teachers unions).

“When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, 1985

From districts blocking charters buying/leasing empty schools to legislation to mandate woke criteria and lax discipline, Sowell serves up example after example of how the education of children is not a priority of traditional government schools. Listen closely here.

This is a book that any parent, any person, concerned with American education should read and keep handy. There is no argument against the facts therein.

featured image original graphic composite by Darleen Click

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