September 29, 2014
By Jeff Bryant Reprinted: AFTNJ
Newark, N.J. – This time of year, while classroom teachers and administrators in public schools are busy welcoming students back to a new school year and figuring out how they’re going to cope with devastating financial constraints, advocates in the charter schools industry are propping up their image with an extensive new public relations campaign called “Truth About Charters.”
In Newark, N.J., the money-making opportunity for the charter school chains opened when the federal government made available millions of dollars in school construction bonds for charter schools. Noticing the potential windfall, the administration of governor Chris Christie promptly withheld funds designated for repairing and renovating existing public schools. This created a bonanza for new charter school construction, while local public schools went deeper into disrepair.
As Owen Davis reported for Truthout, “By systematically underfunding the public sector while extending market incentives to private actors, the Christie administration has essentially placed its thumb on the scale for charters. The result: Some charters enjoy gleaming new facilities (bankrolled by the same financial milieu that spends its down time plugging them), while the public sector continues its decline.”
As Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker recently wrote on his personal blog, School Finance 101, “In theory, the accountability and efficiency advantage of charter schooling is driven by the market for choice of one school over another. Increasingly, state education agencies have moved from being impartial technical assistance agencies and accountability reporting agencies to strongly promoting the charter sector. This advocacy behavior corrupts the state agency role and creates what economists refer to as an ‘asymmetry of information’ – in the extreme case a ‘market for lemons.’”