Kendall Massett wrote a piece in todays News Journal. “It’s time to change the conversation on charter schools.”

The point behind the article was that charter schools do some great things too.

It reminded me of a middle aged executive who fell in love with his secretary, and had carried on an affair over years while maintaining his family status, buttressed with a wife and two sons. Who, now that the news was out was sitting with her on her bed, head in hands, looking at losing all in a divorce settlement, being banned from his kids, losing his job on a morality clause, and now, with no future in front of him, for the first time, accepting his responsibility in what he’d done…. Looking at the tears streaming down his face and through his hands, his young, voluptuous secretary tries to console him… “Well, it’s not ALL bad.. Look at it this way… At least the sex was good…”

Kendall Massett’s assertion that we must continue Charter Schools because some good may come out of it, in itself is a losing argument. It ignores the bad. When making decisions, one can’t ignore the bad.

I have found the best way to explain the “charter school versus public school problem” is with a parable. Go figure, but most people will grasp a parable when facts, figures and numbers roll off their eyes and out their ears.

“Once upon a time, there was a loving single dad. A dad who was blessed with one child. He was poor, still paying off the funeral bills for his former wife and the kid’s mother. But they got along ok. There was enough to live on and that’s what they did. However one thing bothered this dad. Being with only one child, the dad had nothing to compare that child to. He questioned himself. Was this dad doing everything he could for his child? So the dad, had a great idea. He would adopt another son of the same age, so they two could compete together. Which ever was the best, would get rewarded first and through the competition his son would eventually get the best upbringing he possibly could. What the Dad did not figure upon, was that feeding two kids cost more than one. He only had enough to feed one. So he came up with a plan that which ever son did better at running around the block each morning got to eat first, and the other got to eat what was left over. Every morning, rain or shine, at 5:30 am, the race would occur. Knowing what was at stake both sons tried their best. Sometimes one won. Sometimes the other. But the Dad began to grow concerned because he was timing the races. Originally he had to rush to get the food ready before the first one burst in. But over time, the found he had more and more and sometimes plenty of time to set the table before the first would come through the door. For some unknown reason, they were running slower and slower and slower. He invited an expert in to see why? The expert asked what he fed the first kid when they were alone. It amounted to 1000 calories. The expert said… “Ah Ha” You are feeding two people on what you fed one. No matter how much running they do, together they can never do what originally one was able.

Kendall Massett doesn’t cover this issue. Obviously common sense would decree that if we are going to have charter schools, we need to fund them independently and not take away the funds from public schools. Trying to make someone do better with less resources may be possible on a percentage scale, but the overall result, will be a loss. If charter schools want to experiment with private or parochial funding, and people want to go there, excellent. We have choice. Likewise, if we increase taxes on the top 1% just to pay the entire budgets of charter schools so that then we can experiment, great, let’s do it and have choice. But to expect better results on half the calories, is impossible. And that is the expectation of what charters will do.

This study of next door Philadelphia, shows that test scores in Philly were collectively higher when there were NO charter schools, then when there were. Meaning that allowing Charter schools to come in and compete with Philly public schools, lowered Philadelphia’s cumulative test score average…. Simply put, in any other venue when two teams compete, they both have independent sponsors. Splitting ones resources to fund two teams competing against each other, well… common sense tells you that when they go up against other teams whose funding was unlimited… they are going to lose badly…

Finally one other factor in Kendall’s piece that burns. When an scientist does experimentation, he throws out all those episodes where something goes wrong and his hypothesis doesn’t work. When you experiment in education, all that “stuff” you throw out, is our own children.

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