Just as the economic house of cards finally collapsed around George W. Bush and his cronies (and did so a good three months earlier than they’d hoped), the efforts to privatize public schools in order to make them "better" have been increasingly revealed to be less than successful at anything other than weakening education overall while lining the pockets of a fortunate few with our tax monies.
The horror show that is Chris Whittle has seriously damaged the public-school systems of Philadelphia and other American cities, in addition to raiding, with Jeb Bush’s help, the pension funds of Florida’s teachers in order to prop up his Edison Project. (And no, his schools aren’t significantly better than the public schools they’re designed to supplant. In a 2007 RAND study of Philadelphia’s schools, the study’s authors stated that "We find no evidence of differential academic benefits that would support additional expenditures on private managers." In fact, studies of charter schools nationwide have found that they usually do worse than comparable public schools.) Whittle, who found that he could no longer count on friendly governors turning over their employees’ pension funds to him, has now decided to forsake inner-city students in favor of the wealthy elite; he’s stepped down as Edison’s CEO and his new "Nations School" scheme has a tuition rate similar to Ivy League colleges.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, the cradle of the charter-school craze, a new, comprehensive study from the Institute on Race and Poverty shows that, far from helping inner-city kids, nearly two decades of charter schools have hurt them: Most charter schools perform worse than comparable district schools on state tests. In addition, charters intensify the very racial and economic segregation that the public schools in the state had previously worked hard to reduce. The drive to cut corners by using unqualified persons to teach could be a factor; just this past week, the state of Minnesota was forced to withhold $60,000 in funds from a Golden Valley charter school that had hired unqualified teachers.