Tue, May

An Aha! Moment: Charters = Vouchers


EDUCATION POLITICS - “Charter Schools” is an emotional term that invokes a sort of shimmering gateway of hope. It sends a siren’s signal offering educational panacea and the false solution to every parent’s nightmare: uncertainty about the future. 

But like nearly everyone I know, I have taken shortcuts in comprehending political issues, with this predictable outcome: magical, spurious impressions. 


In failing to appreciate the underlying essence and agenda of these private charter entities, like nearly everyone the true nature of Charter Schools has failed to register with me. 

As scholastic products, these Charter Schools do not represent a gingerbread haven of scholastic excellence. Lift the veil of rhetoric and romanticism and they are revealed simply as the physical manifestation of a very old, very tired, utterly archetypal Republican trope: School Vouchers. 

Milton Friedman introduced the imperative of privatizing public education nearly 60 years ago in his 1955 essay “The Role Of Government in Education”. He proposed decoupling the financing of education from its administration. The idea was for government to address individuals seeking an education not obliquely via a government-subsidized school but directly by furnishing “equity” capital. 

This money would support a free market of educational opportunity, a radical theology Friedman proselytized incessantly and very generally in pursuit of reducing myriad direct activities of government. 

Neither the merit of this privatization ideology nor the success of its charter-manifestations is my argument here. Instead, quite simply, is the fact of this equivalence. Long have I understood “Vouchers” to represent an ideology abhorrent to me. Yet somehow I – and I daresay many, many other of the politically congruent – have failed to intellectually merge the equivalent methods of School Voucher with Charter School

Yet these entities accomplish precisely the same end. The difference is only that the commoditization of student’s education is hidden within the school structure of charters in the form of “ADA” per capita allowances. These schools are designed specifically to funnel public educational monies into private pockets. The veneer of educational salvation serves beatifically to mask Milton’s underlying theology of privatization

Since the political right failed to convince our polity of the wisdom in empowering private institutions to do the people’s business, whether parochial, not-for-profit or secular – since the Right failed in its goal to institute school vouchers, they instead triumphed in accomplishing the same deed covertly through the widespread, national proliferation of charter schools. 

These charter school entities are nothing new then, they are merely GOP school vouchers cloaked in charter school sheepskin. 

All that patina of educational salvation is just so much PR, successful because so many of us fail to scrutinize political fads adequately. Charter schools are simply the modern means whereby school vouchers have been implemented. 

Charter schools = school vouchers and some of us should be more skeptical about grandiose promises of magical cures.


(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.k12newsnetwork.com





Vol 11 Issue 63

Pub: Aug 6, 2013

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