Houston In the long slog against the privatization and abandonment of public schools, two forces have nipped at the heels of this historic foundation and exemplar of the American democracy and its commitment to education of all of its citizens. One has been the advent of charter schools, funded by public dollars and subsidized by doors, ostensibly nonprofit, and drawing resources away from public schools, while often aiding segregation within the system. The other, which surged during the pandemic, and has flowered under red state exceptionalism, is homeschooling. Recently, serious flaws have been found underneath both. With homeschooling, it has been false claims and bad research. With charter schools in some cases, it has been specialized financing, which has undermined their expansion and marginal claims to separate sustainability.
Louisiana may be a case study in the absurd pretenses of homeschooling. As reported by the Associated Press, “…nearly 9,000 private schools in Louisiana don’t need state approval to grant degrees. Nearly every one of those unapproved schools was created to serve a single homeschooling family, but some have buildings, classrooms, teachers and dozens of students.” Worse than these fabricated degrees is the question about what many home schoolers are really learning and the fictious claims being made for their supposed superiority. The Washington Post eviscerated the questionable and exaggerated research of their most aggressive academic cheerleader and his claims to legislatures, parents, and others that home school produced superior results. In fact, as they reported, “The Cardus Education Surveys were run several times in the United States and Canada by a Canadian Christian think tank, using representative samples. They found homeschooled students were less likely to attend selective colleges, spent fewer years in college and wound up working in lower-paying jobs.” Homes are great, but they are poor substitutes for schools.
The same might be said about charters and their future. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the problems charter schools are having with “risky charter-school debt.” In order to compete with public schools and support their comparative claims, some sold bonds to finance construction, higher salaries and administration costs, and other supplements to the per student capita. Now interest rates have hammered them and the “wealthy investors” took advantage of not having “to pay income taxes on municipal-bond interest, adding to the demand.” That’s over now, some charters are missing bond payments, and “over the past two years, rapid inflation has upended” their model while “driving up expenses for charter schools without any comparable increase in revenues.” Newbies are getting a rough welcome to the ongoing crises in public education, hello!
Now of these problems in homeschooling and charterization solve the issues of public education, but rather than allowing the public to see either one as a panacea, maybe it will force parents, educators and others to finally roll up their sleeves and do what is necessary for public education to do its job for communities and thrive everywhere.