Transparency and charter autonomy are worth the hiccups

An Idaho judge ruled this week that the nonprofit behind $200,000-worth of ads backing state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s education reforms must disclose its donors (New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg among them). The incident may end up hurting Luna’s cause by raising populist ire against deep-pocketed contributors. Regardless, education-reform advocates should embrace greater transparency over edu-advocacy spending given who still spends the most.

American science education has plenty of room for improvement and President Obama deserves credit for putting STEM education on the agenda. Less admirable, as a Washington Post op-ed pointed out this week, is that his solution relies heavily on infusing America’s schools with 100,000 more teachers. Making STEM a priority matters little if that amounts to a continued focus on inputs rather than outputs—or turns out mainly to be an election year sop to a key Democratic constituency.

Kentucky is introducing a promising program to allow districts to operate more like charter schools, with greater independence and fewer regulations. That’s well and good, but there’s a simpler way to boost efficiency and creativity through school autonomy: Join the forty states that allow actual charters.

The principal of a failing Florida charter school irked some lawmakers and fired up school-choice critics this week when she received a $519,000 departure payment. (Never mind that district officials rarely leave their posts as paupers, regardless of performance.) Shame on her and the irresponsible governing board of her lousy school. Charter advocates must be vigilant to condemn such excesses while also stressing that increased regulation is not the solution—rather, it deprives charters of the autonomy that is their greatest strength. Stronger authorizing is the answer.

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