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David Hornbeck is a veteran education reformer, old-style, meaning he actually has experience running school districts and states. He was superintendent of the Philadelphia schools, state superintendent of Maryland and Kentucky, and led the implementation of KERA (the Kentucky Education Reform Act).
In this post, Hornbeck writes that he once believed that charter schools were “reform,” but he no longer does.
“As Philadelphia’s Superintendent of Schools, I recommended the approval of more than 30 charter schools because I thought it would improve educational opportunity for our 215,000 students. The last 20 years make it clear I was wrong.
“Those advocating change in Maryland’s charter law through proposed legislation are equally committed to educational improvement. They are equally wrong. New policy should not build on current inequities and flawed assumptions, as the proposed charter law changes would do.”
I admire people who are willing to listen, Watch, learn, and change their minds. Why did Hornbeck change his mind?
He paid attention to evidence. Imagine that!
On average, charter schools don’t get better academic results than public schools.
Charter funding negatively affects public schools, creating opportunities for a few but inequities for the many. He writes: “Opportunity for the 13,000 charter school students in Baltimore City is in part funded by the loss of opportunity for the remaining 70,000 students without a commensurate performance improvement by charter school students.”
In addition, charters may harm the credit ratings of urban districts by creating inefficiencies: As Moody’s reported, “charter schools pose the greatest credit challenge to school districts in economically weak urban areas and may even affect their credit ratings.”
Contrary to the claims of charter advocates, “States with “stronger” charter laws are not doing better: Advocates say we need a “stronger” charter law, noting that Maryland ranks near the bottom. Pennsylvania’s law is ranked much higher, yet its charter growth is contributing significantly to a funding crisis that includes draconian cuts to teachers, nurses, arts, music and counselors in Philadelphia.”
The changes proposed in Maryland will make it harder to get and keep the best teachers:
“The proposed “stronger” law undermines collective bargaining that protects teachers from politics and favoritism and has been crucial to improvement in compensation and benefits. It would create a two-tiered system in which charter teachers would have to organize and bargain separately with each charter opting out of the larger system’s contract. Unionization is not the problem. There are no unions in many of the nation’s worst educational performing states. All schools, charter or traditional, must pay competitive salaries and benefits to attract experienced, skilled teachers who can succeed with all children.”
Charters do not serve the children with the greatest needs.
If Maryland passes the proposed charter law, it will make the education system incoherent and inefficient.
This is not reform.
Hornbeck describes what real reform is. His short list does not include charters.