Three Short Takes on Education

On the education front, Democrats at the state and national levels are continuing their adamant resistance to charter schools, i.e., the best chance many black kids have of getting a decent education before they turn 18.  The party that never stops trumpeting its “anti-racism” opposes giving poor blacks a choice in what schools they attend, instead bowing to the assumed political power of the teachers’ unions.

So, the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature of the State of New York continues to impose a hard cap on the number of charter schools the state can open.  That’s true despite the fact that there’s a waiting list of some 50,000 kids who’d attend charters if only there were charters to attend.  The legislature is making sure there aren’t. 

The cap was originally put in place because charters were considered experimental, so officials wanted to proceed with caution.  That may have made sense 30 years ago when the first charter school was established, but it no longer does.  There are far too many examples of successful charter schools to call them experimental now.  Quality charter schools, like Success Academy, routinely outperform not only traditional public schools generally, but the best of them.  That’s not because they skim the cream of students off the top.  Admission is by lottery only and the kids who aren’t chosen perform substantially worse academically than do their peers who are, producing a clear comparison of the two types of schools. 

In short, anyone who truly cares about poor and minority kids supports the expansion of charter schools.  But Democrats are everywhere opposed.  It seems it’s easy to mouth words like “anti-racism,” but actually doing obvious things to help minority kids perform up to their abilities gets lost on the “darkling plain” of party politics.

Which brings us to the latest Biden Administration attack on charter schools.  The federal Department of Education issues grants to help charter schools get started and stay open.  It’s an extremely limited program of only $440 M (out of a department budget of $68 B), but even that is too much for the Biden Administration that seeks to limit it still more by imposing new requirements on schools seeking funds.

Applicants will now have to describe “unmet demand for the charter school.” 

How does an applicant do that?  Amazingly, pointing to huge waiting lists (like those 50,000 kids in New York State) for charter school placement won’t do the job.  Why not?  Democratic animus against anything that competes effectively with traditional public schools is a good guess.

The Administration wants evidence of “over-enrollment of existing public schools,” as well as proof that the new charter “does not exceed the number of public schools needed to accommodate the demand in the community.”

In other words, traditional public schools that so clearly disserve the poor and minorities are favored at every turn while charters that better educate those kids are kicked to the curb.

[T]he Administration is trying to leverage federal dollars to limit school choice and prop up failing union-run schools that received an incredible $200 billion in Covid relief since 2020.

After unions spent two pandemic years keeping public schools closed, while many charters and most private schools stayed open, this is an educational and moral disgrace.

Just so.  Remember that the next time a Democrat or progressive claims the mantle of the “anti-racist.”

Ending on a positive note, MIT has decided to again use the SAT as a criterion for admissions.  It’s doing so for the reason that was always the best argument against the current trend of abandoning the SAT – it’s an accurate predictor of academic performance.  Here’s what MIT said:

Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT. 

Many universities have scrapped the SAT on the dubious premise that it discriminates against the poor and minority students.  In fact, it simply identifies those students who do or don’t perform well academically, irrespective of race, class, etc.  It’s an effective tool schools can use to recruit students they want and weed out those they don’t.  Will other schools follow MIT’s lead? 


1 comment

Janice Fiamengo

Thanks for this. I hope the charter schools can flourish despite Democrats’ vendetta against them.

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