If you have not taken time to read our major charter school debate with UK professors Wayne Lewis and Martin Solomon, you owe it to yourself and Kentucky’s children to take some time to do so. The professors provide a good introduction into the issues of establishing charter schools in Kentucky from the viewpoint of both a strong proponent of charters and a sharp critic of these school choice options for parents.
Now that the professors have weighed in, I’m adding more to the discussion. I already posted several blogs on the fact that charter schools are public – NOT private – schools and, at least in states with the kind of solid charter school laws we’d like to see in Kentucky, they are also highly accountable.
Today, I expand a bit on the accountability situation because one of our debaters indicated there are a lot of scandals with charters. What’s the full story on this?
The truth is that there have indeed been some scandals in charter schools. However, this seems to reflect some general problems of human nature in our society because right here in Kentucky – where we don’t have any charter schools – there have also been more than a few school scandals, as well.
What makes these two cases more bothersome is that they only came to light following a special set of audits by the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts. The misbehavior went on for years, undetected, by the standard safeguards supposedly put in place by the traditional public school system in Kentucky.
These very dramatic traditional public school examples from Kentucky are joined by other cases of misbehavior by some school finance officers and others.
So, unfortunately, the problems of disappointing human failings in charter schools are not unique. You can find similar examples in the traditional school system, too. However, the fact is those charter school scandals are getting discovered, publicized, and punished.
This accountability for charter schools is even evident in a highly anti-charter web site that specializes in “Charter School Scandals.”
If you read the comments in that site, it becomes quite obvious that while we don’t seem to be able to stop some adults from falling into temptation in either the traditional or the charter school systems, misbehavior in charter schools is being identified and punished.
To repeat a point I made a few days ago, the growth in charter schools being closed (light green line in graph below) shows these schools of choice are being identified and held accountable if they step out of line.
Repeating a question I asked in that earlier blog, “How many traditional public schools in Kentucky have been closed for failing to meet muster in the last five years?” I can think of only one middle school in Louisville, and there is speculation that the closure was really driven by the school district’s desire to use the facilities for another purpose.
I’ll close with one more point: given that human nature is what it is, Kentucky will be foolish if it does not include solid accountability provisions in its charter school law such as annual audits and plenty of requirements for open transparency in charter school governance. We can’t stop people from being people, but Kentucky has an opportunity to limit the damage they might cause with a strong charter school bill. In fact, given the recent number of problems uncovered in Kentucky’s traditional school system by the state auditor, the legislature might be wise to revisit the accountability provisions for those school systems, as well.