March 26, 2008
Ever since the release of his biography of Al Shanker, Tough Liberal, Richard Kahlenberg has been busy penning articles about the education issue du jour, asking always: What would Shanker do? His latest is an Education Week commentary that on the twentieth anniversary of the charter school idea asks whether or not the schools that sprung from it have fulfilled the purposes for which Shanker originally found them suitable. Kahlenberg thinks no. For example, charter schools teachers are often un-unionized. "Not surprisingly," writes Kahlenberg, "lacking a collective voice, teachers in charter schools turn over at almost twice the rate of public school teachers." The connection is misrepresented. Modern industries in our modern economy consider it normal for talented people to jump from one profession to the next. That district schools don't experience such turnover is indicative 1) of the stasis that union representation brings and 2) of the type of person who may choose to teach in a district-school environment, not that charter-school teachers are dissatisfied with their jobs. Kahlenberg's other shaky points are too numerous to refute here, but suffice it to say that evaluating the effectiveness of charter schools by whether they meet education expectations of decades past is a method of distinctive illogic.
"The Charter School Idea Turns 20," by Richard Kahlenberg, Education Week, March 26, 2008