Over the weekend I read a bit of Gotham Schools and the blog post that says we can expect five results from the charter cap legislation passed this week.
Some of these are not as beneficial to the charter movement as the numbers suggest. The National Association for Public Charter Schools tells you why this is actually worse legislation for charters than no legislation at all.
But let’s look at the points:
1. There’s no more request via application. Now it’s an RFP process. The UFT’s Michael Mulgrew believes that the RFP design will mean that authorizers can ban charter schools from springing up in neighborhoods “overwhelmed” by charters, according to Gotham Schools.
Overwhelmed is an interesting word choice.
2. Lack of clarity about who can oversee charters. Some think the chancellor can still be in on the mix. Others are up in the air.
3. The part about requiring more ESL and special needs students over time shouldn’t be much of a problem, since charters actually operate for the benefit of those types of students. It does create the question about the lottery process.
Look at how this is played out in a recent Gotham Schools article: Harlem Success Academy has fewer needy students than Sojourner Truth school. Actually, statistically, it does not, since they both have 70% students in the reduced lunch or free lunch category, combined. To speculate otherwise is to over-granularize granular data and to play a game of semantics about where needy begins and having it all begins.
The point is that it really shouldn’t matter how many ESL or special needs students a charter school has. The charter is designed to pay its teachers well and to deliver high quality results to every student.
4. Charter schools will now be required to have more people on a council. More public attention will be directed at charters. But this should also be positive, because more public attention should mean that the local neighborhoods and communities that feed a charter will be more aware of how good they are for the students. There’s a somewhat shallow knowledge of charters in New York, and this would help give a positive shine to the hard work that these teachers and staff do.
5. The last point is that for districts that allow more than $5,000 worth of improvements in a charter school that shares space with a traditional public school there must be matching funds made in improvements for the traditional school. To me this is another signal that the real issue for traditional schools is funding. They want money. They want equity. But this would allow them to get equity without making structural changes to contracts with teachers. And it certainly helps them fund improvement. But will more money mean better performance.
The trend doesn’t suggest it will. And after all, charters typically operate with less money than traditional schools and they still do better.