Conservatives Beware: The Illusory Independence of Charter Schools

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, charter schools were created by the Education Reform Act of 1993. The Commonwealth has been a pioneer in the area of charter schools. (Minnesota first led the way in 1991.)

After all this time, there is an assumption amongst many average voters that charters are either private, independent or represent some sort of private-public partnership. All three are false.

As a Republican, I believe we should use charters for short term political gain. As a conservative, I fear charters pose some of the same long term problems that traditional public schools pose. Charter schools may work better than traditional public schools, but they are still state controlled indoctrination centers. Conservatives must exercise diligence before jumping on the charter school bandwagon. Here’s a few quick things to consider:

*Usually, a charter system takes control away from the localities and places more control with the state. This may be beneficial in the short term, but the long term consequences could be dangerous. Conservatives usually favor local control; state over federal and local over state. We must beware the beaurocratic oligarchs that tend to assume control over charter schools.

*Charter schools still suck up taxpayer money and put more people under the influence and employ of the government. The creation of more charter schools does little about cost containment and limiting the influence liberalism if traditional public schools don’t undergo a corresponding decrease in size and influence. If the growth of the charter schools is not offset by a decrease in traditional schools, then charter schools are just empowering Leviathan.

*Charter schools have become a favored creature of many liberal intellects simply because they cannot deny that traditional public schools have failed and they do not want to empower private, parochial or home schooling. They have ulterior motives here and we should not fall into their trap and exclude private, parochial or home schooling from the discussion. Charters schools are being used as a ploy to co-opt traditional conservative remedies of school choice and vouchers.

*Usually, charter schools operate independently of the established public school structure and unions, but they do not prohibit unionization. The laws involved in this area are often byzantine. But simply, although charter schools operate independently from a decrepit established system, there is nothing controlling how they will evolve. Presently, traditional teachers unions are surreptitiously encouraging charter schools to form their own unions. This is occurring in Massachusetts.

*Conservatives should examine and help influence the laws and regulations enabling charter schools in their respective states. Conservatives must discern where the power lies; who has decision making authority over the charter schools at all levels; and how the people will be empowered.