Charter schools just aren’t like that

A recent letter to the Herald-Leader in Lexington shows misinformation about charter schools continues in Kentucky.

The letter in question was posted by Alan DeYoung. He makes a number of incorrect statements.

For example, Mr. DeYoung claims charter schools have been around for 40 years. That is not true. The first charter school operations started in Minnesota in 1992.

Furthermore, it took some time before enough of these schools came into existence to allow any sort of reasonable study of their effectiveness. Even today, the number of charter school studies is rather thin. However, a series of reports done by the CREDO team at Stanford University, starting with one issued in 2009, shows that charter schools outperform in several states including: Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri. That has to lift the overall state average performance.

In addition, in the 15 states plus the District of Columbia CREDO studied, pages 32 and 33 in the report say once students spent sufficient time in charters to benefit, then charter performance in general was better than in traditional public schools across all 16 of these educational jurisdictions.

DeYoung exposes what is probably his true concern late in his letter. There he claims that charter schools undercut teachers’ unions. Perhaps, but it’s no secret that teachers’ unions are standing in the way of badly needed school reforms (even President Obama has chimed in on that).

Such road-blocking was present in Louisville until very recently as the union stood in the way of getting teachers with high levels of experience into that city’s Persistently Low-Achieving Schools. You can read more about how the Jefferson County Teachers Association roadblocks needed education activity in a recently published report on collective bargaining agreements in Kentucky, now available from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

Check out the comments starting on page 29 about how union transfer rights trump the ability of school principals and their school councils to hire the best teacher for the job.

Page 30 of this report amplifies the fact that the district’s union contract creates problems placing the most experienced teachers where they are most needed.

Worse still are comments on page 33 about how the union’s contract interfered with placement of skilled educators in the district’s Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.

Only after several years of pressure has the union started to relent on this issue.

One comment from DeYoung is rather amusing. Anyone who has spent any time in Frankfort during a legislative session will chuckle at DeYoung’s notion that the Kentucky Education Association is weak. In fact, no other entity more extensively floods the capital with its lobbyists.

Furthermore, the Jefferson County Teachers Association regularly spends more than $100,000 on an individual school board race in that county.

In any event, DeYoung offers nothing to address a chronic problem in Kentucky’s schools: achievement gaps continue to plague the state, and dealing with those sorts of gaps is something charters in many places, like New York City, Boston and Louisiana, do very well.