To the Editor:
Your front-page article (“City Mayors Turn to Charter Schools,” Oct. 27, 2004) did a fine job of describing some of the financial and political incentives driving the proliferation of charter schools in the District of Columbia and elsewhere. Several omissions and statements, however, should be addressed.
Missing from your account, for example, was one of the prime reasons for filing our lawsuit against the District of Columbia Public Schools and other city officials: the gross inequities in funding between charters and the public schools. Public schools are not eligible for the City Build grants, nor are they allowed to tap into the $28 million made available to charter schools by Sallie Mae.
An even more glaring inequity is the little-known charter school “facilities allotment”—$1,981 per student for fiscal 2005 above and beyond the supposedly uniform per-pupil allotment. Because the school system has been ordered to open its facilities to charter schools at below-market rates, this facilities allotment can provide substantial overages that the charter school can then use as a virtual slush fund.
Elsewhere in the nation, as you make clear in the article (“Chicago Mayor’s Plan for New Schools Hits Snag Over Finances,” Oct. 27, 2004), charter operators typically have funds deducted from their per-pupil allotment to compensate the city for providing janitorial and maintenance support.
Also missing in your coverage was the fact (as reported on the front page of the The New York Times in August) that charter schools have not fulfilled their promise to do schooling better for less. Charters are more expensive to operate and are consistently outperformed by their maligned public school counterparts.
Charter school advocates are now admitting publicly what we have alleged all along: Charters are an attempt to resegregate schools—not just by race, but by socioeconomic status. One of the sacred functions of public schools, and of a democratic government, is the promotion of a just society and the creation of new generations of good citizens.
Yet, in your article, U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., defends charter schools by saying that parents want their kids “to be in schools where the same values are shared by the other parents.” “Shared values” here is clearly code for a homogeneous, mostly middle-class population. Charter mom Darlene Boyd makes this painfully clear in your article, when she says, “I want my children to go to school with people like us, kids who have lots of books and are exposed to things like us.”
How dare they suggest that other mothers and fathers do not want or deserve a decent education for their children.
Save Our Schools-SE/NE