February 6, 2014

 

Need more proof that the proliferation of charter schools does the exact opposite its supporters claim? Look no further than the example now being made in Durham County, North Carolina.

 

The Washington Post and Durham County’s local newspaper recently editorialized about the very damaging and destabilizing effects charter schools are having on Durham Public Schools and the state of North Carolina.

 

These facts should not be a surprise to the new Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, Dr. Lewis Ferebee.  Ferebee came to IPS just 4 months ago from Durham Public Schools, the very school system these reports claim are being harmed.

 

The fact that Dr. Ferebee is now pushing a bill to sell off IPS students and teachers from the most challenging schools to private companies by financially partnering with charter schools is both surprising and wrong-headed.

 

Apparently the growth of charter schools in Durham is effectively re-segregating Durham Public Schools, creating a racial divide in the community.

 

The growing number of charter schools is undoing the hard-won accomplishment of 1992 when the county overcame a history of racial tensions to combine the city school system and the county school system into the Durham Public Schools. The charters’ effect on the district schools has been a loss of middle-class children of both races and a concentration of poor and minority students in the district schools. 

Back home in Indiana, a federal class-action lawsuit filed in 1968 against IPS by legendary local civil rights attorney John Moss  accelerated the desegregation of IPS, the effects of which are still being carried out, including the phasing out of one-way busing which won’t be fully completed until 2017.

 

In terms of money removed from community-based public schools, charter schools claim about $200 million each year for existing charter schools and another $45 million for new charters in 2014 and 2015. Virtual charter schools claim more than $50 million.  In addition to funds, charter schools qualify for a multitude of categorical program funds and grants

 

And let’s not forget the $91.2 million loan forgiveness charter schools were granted by the general assembly in 2013.

 

All of this is to say that nobody in state leadership is acknowledging that there is a saturation point for new charter school approvals—especially when charter schools have not proven themselves to be more innovative or even an improvement over community-based public schools. 

 

Creating two classes of schools is where IPS is headed under HB 1321—together with a boatload of further destabilizing dynamics.  Let’s not take this enormous step backwards in time.

 

Who was it that warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”?