Anyone who cares about Catholic education ought to watch what’s happening in Philadelphia, not just because the archbishop there has turned twenty-one of his schools over to a private foundation, but because that foundation is applying business principles to schools that sorely need them.
Carter and Faith in the Future have the potential to invigorate a vital sector of education throughout North America.
For starters, the Faith in the Future Foundation two weeks ago chose a longtime education and charter-school guru named Samuel Casey Carter to shepherd its new network of Catholic high schools to viability. Carter has a resume you don’t generally find in a school administrator, and he knows how to measure a school’s effectiveness in ways that would be lost on the typical bishop.
But, if they succeed, Carter and Faith in the Future have the potential to invigorate a vital sector of education throughout North America.
One would be hard-pressed to find a diocese presently undertaking an analysis of the market conditions affecting its schools and its finances, but that’s precisely what Carter spent his first few days on the job developing. In a recent interview, he laid out a plan that would examine 1.) which of the seventeen high schools and four special education schools now in his charge can continue to compete with neighboring public and charter schools as well as high-quality private, college-preparatory schools, and 2.) which schools are running deficits and may need the most
One of the central tenets of the charter-school idea is that these institutions should be open to all comers, regardless of an applicant’s home address. Ending “zip-code education,” after all, is a major motivation behind the school-choice movement. It’s a big deal, then, that a District of Columbia task force is looking into allowing charter schools to offer preferential treatment to applicants from their immediate neighborhoods. To be sure, a handful of other cities have already allowed such preferences—Denver, New York, New Orleans, and Chicago. In those cases, the neighborhood preferences were either sought by the schools—so that they could serve a needy local population—or school districts, as conditions of handing over public school buildings. That approach makes us a bit squeamish, but can be justified if the goal is to ensure that disadvantaged kids in a given locale have access to a great education. What’s impossible to justify, however, are preferences (or outright boundaries) that might keep poor kids out of charter schools. That’s precisely what could happen in D.C. if charters in certain gentrifying parts of the city, like Capitol Hill’s Ward Six, are allowed to use these preferences. The charter movement shouldn’t be doctrinaire. But it shouldn’t fall back into the exclusionary traps of the old public system, either.
RELATED ARTICLE: “D.C. considers neighborhood admissions preferences for charter schools,” by Emma Brown, The Washington Post, October 3, 2012.
At some point, we ought to acknowledge that the traditional union contract is incompatible with the untraditional concept of charter schools. That should be easier to do now that the nation’s first union-led charter school is struggling to stay open.
The traditional union contract is incompatible with the untraditional concept of charter schools.
Now seven years old, the UFT Charter School is one of the lowest performing schools in New York City (it has scored two Ds on the city’s report card in three years) and its authorizer, the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, will soon consider whether to renew its charter.
This is a bad development for the United Federation of Teachers, considering that former UFT President Randi Weingarten said in 2005 that the school would “finally dispel the misguided and simplistic notion that the union contract is an impediment to success.” Many factors certainly may have contributed to the dismal achievement at the school, where less than a third of students are reading at grade level. But if anything, the UFT has shown us that union contracts are a poor fit for successful charters.
About 12 percent of the nation’s charter schools are unionized, according to 2010 data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. More than half of those have contracts because state laws impose collective bargaining on charters. The other half includes schools that have seen growing disinterest among teachers to maintain unions that were first organized
Let’s set aside the poor box office results for Won’t Back Down (which set a record for the worst film opening ever). There are still as many as twenty states considering legislation that would enact the parent trigger that inspired the film. Hollywood may not have the mojo to move these measures along more quickly, but there are many lawmakers who remain convinced that parents should be empowered to fire a school’s management if it’s failing their children or hire a charter provider who may do the job better.
Parent-trigger laws ought to give parents as many tools and options as are available.
For a law like this to succeed—and it remains far from clear whether it can—it ought to give parents as many tools and options as are available. That’s why it was troubling to see the trigger’s most evangelical supporter, Ben Austin, take an ideologically rigid stance against the role that for-profit educators might play in these turnaround efforts.
Austin heads up the Parent Revolution in California, which was the first state to pass a trigger law (it did so in January 2010) but he’s been busy lobbying for the trigger outside the Golden State and he’s been arguably influential in getting more states to take this policy seriously. His opponents have been busy as well, however. And it doesn’t matter whether Austin served in the Clinton White House or if he remains a committed Democrat. Teacher unions,
About the Editor
Director, Program on Parental Choice
Adam Emerson is the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s school choice czar, directing the Institute’s policy program on parental choice and editing the Choice Words blog. He coordinates the Institute’s school choice-related research projects, policy analyses and commentaries on issues that include charter schools and public school choice along with school vouchers, homeschooling and digital learning.
Sign Up for updates from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
- Charters & Choice
- Choice Media.TV
- Dropout Nation
- Ed is Watching
- Education Next
- Getting Smart
- Gotham Schools
- The Hechinger Report
- Jay P. Greene’s Blog
- Joanne Jacobs
- NACSA's Chartering Quality
- National Journal Education Experts
- The Quick and the Ed
- Rick Hess Straight Up
- Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook
- Whitney Tilson’s School Reform Blog