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Report: More Charter Schools Could Threaten Public Education

A new report says 40 percent of the nation's charter schools are part of corporate chains or franchises. (
A new report says 40 percent of the nation's charter schools are part of corporate chains or franchises. (
November 1, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS – What began as an experiment to create innovation through charter schools has become a movement to privatize public education, according to a new report.

Stan Salett, the study's co-author, and the president of the Foundation for the Future of Youth spent more than four decades in public education and helped launch the nation's Head Start and Upward Bound programs. He said in the past two decades, a small group of billionaires, including News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch, who once called public schools an "untapped $500 billion sector," have worked to assert private control over public education to make money.

"And that's what's at play now," he said. "You've got a lot of money on one side going in to create a privatized school system that becomes part of the new marketplace for hedge funds and Wall Street investors."

The Independent Media Institute study found 40 percent of the nation's 6,700 charter schools are part of corporate chains or franchises. Salett said many charters do good work, and are operated by and accountable to their communities. But the report recommends a national moratorium on their rapid growth until the industry's governing structures and business models can be assessed and improved.

The study outlines how public tax dollars follow students who enroll in charters, taking money away from already struggling public systems. Salett said most major U.S. cities are now divided into private and public tracks, and argues the future of one of the nation's few institutions where people from diverse backgrounds come together is at risk.

"Different language backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, racial backgrounds," he added. "The aim of public schools has always been to create a place where the so-called 'melting pot' can occur."

Salett said companies frequently mix nonprofit and for-profit wings to win taxpayer subsidies, further boosting profits. He said some charters also have successfully lobbied to eliminate democratically elected boards, public oversight and accountability.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN