The best case for charter schools has always been short-term: our young people need a way out now. It is simply unconscionable to wait for public education to reform itself in the name of high ideals when there are quicker solutions.
Today’s NY Times (“Defying the Downturn, Charter School Construction Grows in New York,” 8/19/09) describes how charter school construction is booming (when all other kinds of construction are at a standstill), partly due to public and private financing incentives. The Gerena Community School (a predominantly low-income Latino elementary school located directly below I-91 in the North End of Springfield) has been in a dangerous state of disrepair for years (see photos). Curriculum aside, could charter school conversion be a fast route to a new building?
Now, there are very serious questions about whether the possibility of charter schools’ short-term gains come at the expense of the long-term viability of public education (the same short-term/long-term critique about market based solutions to a wide variety of issues). Could charter schools nudge public education from difficult to impossible?
But the closer you get to the human costs of public education’s failures, the more alluring short-term solutions become.