Monday, May 28, 2012

How Charters Compete

This from Diane Ravitch:
A while back, I read a story in the New York Times that really bothered me.

It explained that neighborhood public schools are now compelled to “market” themselves because of competition with charters. In Harlem, charters are omnipresent, and the city administration has closed many public schools to make way for charters. New York City Department of Education officials make clear their preference for charters, leaving no one to fight for or defend the public schools against their competitors. If charters want public school space, they get it, usually over the opposition of the parents and community.

But what was so striking about the story–and you have to read to the end to find this–was the contrast between the resources of the public school and the invading charter. The public school had $500 or less to market itself, with flyers, brochures, volunteers. The charter–in this case, Harlem Success Academy–spent $325,000.

Wow. How can a public school compete when the charter can expend $325,000 to persuade people to participate in the lottery?

This story made me realize that the lottery isn’t really about admission to the school. The lottery is a marketing device. By whipping up interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm, all that money produces large numbers of applicants for the lottery. The lottery is an extravaganza with balloons, the turning of the wheel, the announcement of the winners, the disappointment of the losers. The daughter of a hedge fund manager in Connecticut, who is deeply involved in the charter school “movement,” produced a documentary called “The Lottery,” to promote charters.

Marketing is part of the business plan. Public relations is part of the business plan. Promoting the idea that charters are a cure for the ills of poverty is part of the business plan. Presenting charters as “the civil right idea” of our time is part of the business plan (a cry echoed by both Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney)...


Anonymous said...

This is what Mr. Middleton up in Mason County has been warning KY folks about in terms of the competition with private schools. No offense intended to private schools, but did you see their full page ads in the Sunday paper this week touting their graduates, their successes and their post secondary institution? How in the world are they able to accomplish this without common core, end of course exams, program reviews, etc, busing, free and reduced lunches, state assessment data, etc? Granted, their is an argument to be made about the student population which attends these schools, however, that only goes so far - I mean I have had some pretty low functioning rich kids in my classes as well as sharp poor kids.

I am just going to through this out there as a possible angle, could it be that many parents send their kids to private schools (or perhaps charter schools in the future) because they have lost faith in a system which attempts to place accountability on teacher for responsibilities which aren't really educators'? If I am sending my kids to a private school for $XXXXXX then he better darn well do well and the teachers better do their jobs of teaching him or her. I am not so sure that parents in public schools have the same expectations. IT is ironic that we spend so much time trying to make teachers accountable when I am not so sure that many parents encourage or even support their child working to better their education. Additionally, it seems that we invest a great deal of our funds on expenditures which are best indirect to classroom instruction. How would you expect a school which has about $7000 to spend on a kid (with the expectation that a variety of non instructional services be provided) compared to a school which recieves twice as much and invests in non instructional expenditures which are supported by the marjority?

Richard Day said...

My acquaintances who have sent their kids to private schools seem to have done so for two primary reasons: The desire to control who their children attended school with, and the thought that if there ever was a problem involving their child, that they could "solve it" with one meeting.

Smaller class sizes and the perception of a better education were also in the mix.

Anonymous said...


I think for eight to fifteen grand, it better be more than a perception of a better education. Of course it is going to be better when you have that type of financial and parental support of children (probably pretty homogeneously grouped) attending your school.

It is ironic that they send their kids to private schools apparently avoid negative social influences of some public school peers and to have a sense of responsiveness from the schools. The former is a sad commentary on elitist parents and the later just as dissappointing in terms of "perception" about public school educators willingness to help parents and students. The reality for high school students in these schools is that they have more freedoms, opportunties and resources to engage in the behaviors these parents are most concerned about them avoiding in public schools.

Anonymous said...

I think these charter schools are going to be great! We need to turn all schools into charter schools then everyone apparently will get more money to do important things like advertise and educators won't have to observe as many regulations. Additionally, all the kids will score higher and will be happier (as will their parents) according to the charter school supporters. Heck, don't worry about competing with them, just turn all our schools over and let them have at it!