School Choice

Stossel: Let Charter Schools Teach

Governments limit charter schools, even though charters often do better than government-run schools.

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Many parents try to escape government-run schools for less-regulated "charter schools."

Philadelphia mom Elaine Wells tells John Stossel that she wanted to get her boys into a charter because her local government-run school in inner-city Philadelphia was "horrible…there were fights after school every day."

Her kids spent years losing lotteries that they hoped would get them into a charter.

"It's heartbreaking," Wells says.

In Philadelphia, thanks to government limits, only 7,000 kids get into charters. 29,000 apply.

But eventually, Wells got her kids into a new charter school: Boys' Latin, founded by David Hardy.

Boys' Latin does many unusual things. All kids learn Latin, wear uniforms, and stay longer hours—and it's all-boys.

"The rules are there to set the stage for the students," Hardy tells Stossel. "If the teacher can tell you to tuck in your shirt, they can tell you to be quiet in class…tell you to do your homework."

Wells says that worked for her kids. "Before Boys Latin I would come home and say, 'OK, I need you to read for an hour—read a book.' And their response would be, 'Why? What did we do?' Like reading was a punishment! [After] Boys' Latin…I would find books in the bathroom on the floor!"

Her son Ibrahim adds, "It came to the point where the teacher would tell our mom that I'd taken too many books."

The school was better at hiring teachers who tried hard.

Wells recalls being shocked to find her sons talking to teachers at night: "He's in his room and I hear him talking on the phone and it was 10 o'clock at night. I'm like, 'Who are you on the phone with?' and he was like, 'Well, Mr. Bumbulsky told me to call him if I needed help with homework.'"

Stossel pushed back at some of David Hardy's ideas, like making every student take four years of Latin. "It's ridiculous. Nobody speaks Latin," Stossel suggests to founder David Hardy.

"Well we picked Latin because it was hard," Hardy replies.

"What's the point of that?" Stossel asks.

"Because life is hard—to be prepared you have to work hard," Hardy says. "We wanted to get that into the psyche of our students."

Overall, Boys' Latin gets somewhat better test scores than surrounding schools in most subjects.

"We deliver," Hardy says. "Since the very first class we've sent more black boys to college than any high school in Pennsylvania."

Despite that, government officials rejected his proposal to open a "Girls' Latin" school. They've rejected a bunch of schools.

Opponents complain that charters "drain scarce resources" from government-run schools.

"You can't tell me that," Wells responds. "Every parent pays taxes…if I choose for my child to go to a charter school, then that's where my taxes should go!"

In fact, Philadelphia and other cities don't give charters the same amount of money they give to schools they control. Philadelphia gives them only 70 percent of that. So per student, Stossel notes, the government schools make money whenever a kid leaves for a charter. Over 13 years of schooling, Philadelphia saves $70,000 per kid.

Stossel asks Wells: What if those savings were passed onto the child?

"Absolutely! Give them the rest of the money!" Wells laughs.

But it won't happen because, as Hardy notes, "It would also mean that there would be a whole lot less union jobs. The unions are not going to be for that."

The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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  1. What the fuck ever the charter schools are still funded by the public so call them whatever you want but it is publically funded education. The same forces that led to whatever the fuck is happening in public schools will happen in the charter schools if you give it time. The teachers will complain about the working conditions and their salaries. The Jesus freaks will demand they put up the “In Delusion We Trust” signs in every building. The resourse officers will show up. It’s all the fucking same.

    1. “Jesus freaks”? Why bother at all?

    2. The point of charter schools is to allow for many forms of education to be taught instead of the one size fits all dumbing down of kids by central government. They have a ton of leeway. In arizona many charter schools take the high school graduation exam in 8th grade and pass at higher rates than public high schools seniors. They work. They focus largely on parents who give a shit which is why they work. They dont hurt the kids of involved parents by dumbing it down to the parents who dont care.

    3. Have you ever been in an actual school? Sounds like your impressions are something out of a Stephen King novel.

  2. This. All day long. I don’t even have kids and my taxes go to public schools. “You’re paying for the future of our country!” people tell me. I’ve seen the kids in school. Trust me – I want a refund. Shitty, emotional appeals like that fail to qualify themselves with facts. If I’m paying for successful students, I’m paying for the dropouts, too.
    I’m a product of public schools, and I fucking loathe them.

    1. Amen to that.

  3. For arguments sake, why universal public education?

    If you worry about economic productivity, then we can talk about costs and benefits, and individual motivations for personal gains. Plenty of aspiring people around the world pay for education, even where “public” schools exist. And private higher ed in the US certainly functions, if not efficiently, to provide economic benefits.

    If you worry about DEMOCRACY, and the need for educated citizens and voters, a more effective approach might be in restricting the vote to those proven already knowledgable. Recent decades with increasing voter participation in the US do not exactly show better government.

    If you worry about people being free to choose, and some choosing to be lazy uneducated slobs, then you are a statist, and should jump into a deep hole.

  4. One thing I love about my kids’ public charter is that the teachers are not there for the retirement benefits. There’s no dead wood. The teachers are a year or two out of college and you know what, that’s all you need to be to teach elementary school. They’re enthusiastic and they engage the students better than the fifty year old+ teachers I had. And teaching elementary school will not be their life’s work, they’ll teach for a few years and move on. Spectacular.

  5. Unless Mr. Stossel acknowledges that schools that teach nonsense — the moon is made of green cheese, evolution is a hoax from hell, storks deliver babies, fairy tale creationism, one plus one equals seven — should be neither accredited by mainstream American nor funded with taxpayer dollars, his observations are valueless.

    People are entitled to believe or teach as they wish, but reasoning society should not accept a “degree” from a school that is belligerently ignorant.

    1. It attempts to suggest that the Right teaches lies, using a bunch of things that the Right doesn’t remotely believe as “examples.” Meanwhile, its kind teach that boys are girls, glances are rape, and communism isn’t evil.

      1. Conservatives fought hard to preserve prayer in schools and creationism in science classrooms. Right-wingers continue to operate schools that teach nonsense to flatter superstition.

        Other than that, great comment, you half-educated bigot.

        1. Funny; And here I was thinking all along that those who believed in prayer and creationism who are taught not to lie, cheat, deceive, steal, murder, sleep around and be fair were somehow the positive ends of society.

          And if memory serves correctly – they didn’t “fight hard” to FORCE students to pray they just didn’t want the option taken completely away. Yet somehow anyone who doesn’t make a fag a marriage cake is getting FORCED to do it or fined.

          To pretend those who fully believe the “Evolution Theory” (that’s right — a theory!) is fact and somehow creationism is a hoax is just as, “half-educated bigot” as the other side.

    2. Yea, versus schools whose graduates can’t add or subtract. There are a lot of urban school districts where 0% score above the math proficiency level. That is not one student.

      But lets keep that going.

  6. The Future. What Future?

    “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.” -George Orwell (1903-1950)

    To state that children are the future is to state the obvious. That which is less obvious is the fact that, left on their own, human children would mature into wild beasts. Civilization depends upon socialization — the primary agents of which being the family, currently disintegrating in these United States of America — and the secondary agents being the schools, now corrupted by the federal government and the disestablishmentarians.

    Charter schools pose a threat to the continued indoctrination of the young, the goal of its perpetrators being a population unable to think for itself and largely dependent upon Big Government. For a discussion of education in these United States from the perspective of the Science of Human Behavior, visit …

    https://www.nationonfire.com/education/ .

  7. Public schools royally suck. And the reason they suck is that they do not have to worry about attracting customers.

    Think about it. If Apple was handed the cell phone market under lets see, a cell phones for all legislation, what do you think would happen to the price and quality of cell phones minus incentives to attract customers.

    Price up , quality sucks.

  8. But it won’t happen because, as Hardy notes, “It would also mean that there would be a whole lot less union jobs. The unions are not going to be for that

    IMO – the reason we’ve allowed ourselves to become fatalistic about public unions is because we have since WW2 always chosen the lazy way out when it comes to involving ourselves in our own governance.

    Just re schools – after WW2, there was a major push to consolidate school governance into districts from what had previously been individual schools w ind school boards (which also then required volunteers). Went from about 130,000 governance entities to about 15,000 over the course of a couple decades. Some of that was just a function of the mass move to new suburbs which required a lot of new school construction and hence bond issuance which required state/county level guarantees.

    But the result was professionalism of school boards. No longer could a parent with a kid in elementary volunteer for school board while their kid is in elementary – cuz the school district now runs all the K-12. And with professionalism of boards came consolidation of teacher contracts – and unions – and curriculum – and everything else. No surprise once that happens, governance gets more and more remote and now even the federal govt has its nose everywhere cuz ‘voters’ no longer have any direct ability to influence even their local school.

    I would really like to see charter advocates think differently. Rather than take the ‘school district’ as a given – return back to individual school boards – with ‘charter schools’ being all the different competitive curricula/classrooms/teacher options that can take place WITHIN a single public school building.

    Separate the competition of classroom/curriculum stuff from the facilities/building stuff. The latter is all just a form of ‘rent’ and there are good reasons why taxpayers should not be funding privatized rent for schools.

  9. Let charter schools teach?
    Are you kidding me?
    The kids might learn how to read, write and add a column of numbers.
    The last thing the Union of Soviet Socialist Slave State of America needs is an educated populace.

  10. Democrats: We are pro-choice, expect on schools, guns, prayer, free speech, free association, how much profits you can make, who can and cannot hire, who you can and cannot do business with, how much taxes you have to pay, what pronouns you call somebody by, what books you read, etc.

  11. I don’t love charters, but the public schools that I knew as a kid are being destroyed bit by bit. Instead of the culturally insensitive goal of lifting poor and working class kids into middle class culture, the reverse seems to be in play.

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  13. Socialist Education — FAILURE!!
    Socialist Healthcare — FAILURE!!

    Free enterprise – Alive and well and getting better every year. There is NO human motivation to get BETTER in socialist systems. Only motivation to be a loud-mouthed arrogant deceptive salesman show with tenure.

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