Your Charter School Worked! Don't Do It Again.


Times are good for charter schools, thanks to $4 billion worth of carrots (apples?) from the Department of Education, encouraging states to lift restrictions on charters. From today's Wall Street Journal.

In recent weeks, seven states have lifted restrictions, a spokesman for the department says. Tennessee, for instance, passed a law that raises the state's limit on the number of charter schools to 90 from 50 and allows more students to qualify for entry. Illinois doubled its limit on the total number of charter schools to 120.

Good news, but this was what really caught my attention:

The Chicago Public School system has been near its limit on the number of charters it could grant. Until recently, state law limited the number of charters to 30—and only 15 were allowed to "replicate," or open multiple campuses.

Just goes to show how very, very far charter schools are from the dream of a market-based school system. By capping the number of charters and explicitly prohibiting successful schools from opening new campuses, all the power to bring about more generalized reform is drained away. A wildly successful education entrepreneur has no hope of scaling up, and total screw up can roll cheerfully along as long as state bureaucrats renew his charter every five years. Success gets a pat on the head, and failure a slap on the wrist. Raising the cap on the number of charters from 60 to 120 (Chicago alone has 600 schools) is worth exactly bupkis in the cause of larger market reform. The gale of creative destruction is a gentle breeze, at best.

A lucky break for a few thousand kids, though.