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Some state laws describe charter schools as “public charter schools.”
ALEC model legislation describes charter schools as “public charter schools.”
But calling them so doesn’t make them so. You can call a horse a camel, but it’s still a horse. You can pass a law calling a horse a camel, but it’s still a horse.
Charter schools get public money, but that’s the only thing public about them.
If state legislators truly believed that deregulation was necessary for success, they would deregulate public schools. But they don’t. They keep passing more mandates. But only for public schools.
“The charter sector has been trying to redefine “public” for years. Identifying charters as public schools solves a variety of marketing problems by giving the impression that charters include features that people expect from their public school. “Oh, a public school,” the customers say. “That must mean that the school will be open forever (certainly all of this year), it is staffed with qualified professionals, and is required to meet any special needs that my child might have. Oh, and as a public school, I’m sure it must be accountable to the public as well.”
“Of course, none of these things are true, but the use of the word “public” is a buffer against having the questions even come up. I mean, who even thinks to ask a public school to guarantee that it will stay open all year?
“”Public” when it comes to schools has been taken to mean “operated by the public, paid for by the public, serving the public, and accountable to the public.” Charter fans would like it to mean “paid for by the public” and nothing else. They would like voters and taxpayers not to think of charter schools as private schools that are paid for with public money. They would like voters and taxpayers absolutely not to think of charters as businesses that allow private people and companies to make money by billing the taxpayer. They would definitely not like the voters and taxpayers to think of charters as schools that are “accessible” to all, but which only serve a select few (like a Lexus dealership). They would certainly not like the voters and taxpayers to think of charters as businesses that are accountable only to their owners and operators– and not transparently accountable to the public. The word “public” is a handy fig leaf to cover all of that.”
DeVos wants to water down the definition of “public” even more, to allow private schools, religious schools, and every sort of entrepreneurial venture to get public money. In her view, the real public schools would be dumping grounds for the kids that the charters and voucher schools don’t want.
If we want to retain any sense of the common good, we must resist at every turn. We must protect the common good and our obligations to our fellow citizens.