Selected readings on US charter schools
Sarah Carr and Barbara Miner, two writers known for their works on educational matters in New Orleans and Milwaukee respectively, spoke on their experiences reporting and their thoughts on school systems as part of Ed Talks WI.
While both have worked for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, they have each specialized in outlining the educational situations in two urban metropolises’ with unique expanding problems.
The event focused on the “Politics of School Choice in New Orleans and Milwaukee,” highlighting the growing support for school choice programs in Wisconsin and support from legislators in the state who advocate more school voucher programs and charter schools.
Miner, a Milwaukee native, said mass segregation has plagued Milwaukee, not just in terms of race and class but also in terms of education.
Miner said these school choice programs have become code for something else, just like states rights was code for fighting civil rights legislation.
“It has become code for initiatives that fund public tax dollars into private charter schools and privately run programs,” Miner said.
Miner also gave a summary of the history of school voucher programs in Milwaukee, and how Milwaukee was one of the first cities in the entire country to begin to implement charter schools using public funds before restructuring public education.
Miner said she had spoken with U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, about when the voucher programs had been introduced.
Moore had told her that while the voucher programs had sounded like a great idea when they were introduced, she now would have never voted for something she saw as destroying public education, she said.
In Milwaukee, Miner said, the children who are used as guinea pigs are the African-American students from lower class backgrounds. She said that does not seem to be particularly fair, as students from affluent suburbs are not used as charter school experimenters like their urban counterparts.
Miner concluded the discussion on the issue detailing how vague the benefits of these charter and voucher programs are in terms of test scores.
“Voucher schools performed about the same as public schools, actually scoring lower in math, and when special education students were incorporated, voucher schools performed worse in both math and reading,” Miner said.
Carr, on the other hand, approached the issue by highlighting what has happen in post-Katrina New Orleans and how charter schools in the area have exploded.
Carr said in New Orleans, the big difference is there is unending change to schools, and different schools continue to close if they do not live up to expectations.
Carr said this continuous change has most notably been a result of young administrators of the schools in New Orleans, and they feel this change must be made as soon as possible or else the system is not working.
Both Miner and Carr emphasized the need for a reformed voucher and charter school program.
Source: The Badger Herald – by Bryan Kristensen